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~~Underestimating England would be great~~

Published: Saturday, July 22, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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London:Paul Collingwood said it would be great if Australia underestimated England on the run-up to this winter's Ashes series because they have not done well since their 2-1 series home victory over the Australians.

In 10 Tests since that series, England have only won twice and lost four times as they struggled with injuries to their star players.

Ricky Ponting, the first Australian captain to lose an Ashes campaign since Allan Border in 1986-87, said last week his players were ashamed and embarrassed they would be remembered as the team to relinquish the green-and-gold hold on cricket's oldest rivalry.

Australia have won 11 of their dozen Test outings since but they will no doubt heed their misjudgement of the opposition last summer when the first-Test win at Lord's invited a false sense of security.

"We haven't played to the standards we want to play to, or the standards we set for ourselves last year," admitted Collingwood. "We have to get back to playing very well to beat the Aussies.

"If they underestimate us fantastic, but we must approach it exactly the same as we did last summer.

"We are going to Australia with a belief we have not gone there with for a very long time. A belief that we can retain the Ashes.

"Not many teams in the past can actually have said that and really believed it 100 percent. But we can, we have had a feeling of what it is like now, they have had a feeling of losing the Ashes.

"The mental side of the game is so important at international level in any sport and if we went over there not thinking we could win we would not get very close.

"The tables have turned now, we know what it is like to win and they know what it is like to lose."

Meanwhile, Durham's Collingwood hopes his memorable Lord's Test hundred will earn him a chance of a permanent place in the Ashes.

Collingwood consolidated his status as a current automatic batting pick with 186 against Pakistan last week to light up a drab draw.

It was a significant career moment for the 30-year-old, whose brief taste of success over the Australians in 2005 whetted the appetite.

England employed the same XI to open up a 2-1 lead before Collingwood was drafted in for the memorable series-clinching finale at the Oval last September, an occasion in which he could not help feel an outsider intruding on others' success, for all his personal excitement.

"I knew I was only in because Simon Jones had gone down, it was a nerve-wracking situation," Collingwood said. "I am not saying I didn't expect to do well but it was their 'daddy' if you like.

"They put all the hard work and effort in and I was coming in to do a job on a one-off.

"Now hopefully I will get my own chance to play in the Ashes; I always set myself goals and that is exactly what I want to do. To be part of that side not because of injury but because I have earned my place.

"It will be a special time, every cricketer likes challenges, that is why people like Test cricket, and the biggest challenge is to go to play against the Aussies, the number one side in the world."

He recorded his maiden Test hundred in Nagpur earlier this year, an innings of immaculate tempo, but his latest effort against the Pakistanis has more significance attached, according to Collingwood.

"The innings was pretty much perfect, not the way I scored the runs or anything but doing it in front of a full house, it being my first century on English soil and to be at Lord's," he said, while promoting the Volkswagen Touareg, the official car supplied to the England team.

"Everything about Lord's is fantastic, so it was an amazing feeling to walk off and go through that long room, with all its tradition, having scored a century."

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