England draw after dramatic Test climax

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The Independent Online

England cannot lose their Test series against South Africa after Graham Onions today relived his Centurion heroics to cling on for yet another nerve-jangling draw.

Newlands was the venue this time as number 11 Onions again blocked out the final over, and the added prize for his second act of backs-to-the-wall defiance this winter was the retention of a 1-0 lead with only one match to play.



It seemed the late twist would not be required while Ian Bell (78) and Paul Collingwood were shutting the hosts out for 57 overs in a sixth-wicket stand of 112.



But Collingwood and Matt Prior fell in successive overs from part-time off-spinner JP Duminy - and after Stuart Broad had gloved one to short-leg off Paul Harris, Bell fenced a catch behind to Morkel to be ninth out with 17 balls left.



It fell to Morkel two to deliver the final six balls at Onions. But he could not shift him.



England therefore closed on 296 for nine, reprising the survival acts of both Centurion last month and Cardiff in the Ashes five months previously.



For South Africa, a failure to take more than six wickets on the last day was a demoralising outcome.



A team ranked the best in the world until last month must now accept a drawn series is the limit of their ambitions for next week's fourth and final Test in Johannesburg.



Set a world-record 466 to win here, England knew at the start of play the best they could possibly hope for was a hard-fought stalemate.



After the morning departures of James Anderson and Jonathan Trott, their last two specialist batsmen were all determination - and had to be when South Africa took the second new ball at 180 for five straight after lunch.



In the early stages of Bell and Collingwood's tours de force, Dale Steyn and Morkel induced all manner of plays and misses, some painful - but none managed the crucial desired effect of another wicket.



Collingwood, who needed 20 balls to score his first run, and Bell very nearly ground to a halt at times. But that did not ease the frustration for opponents who were compromised by third seamer Friedel de Wet's buttock injury, yet who surely still expected to force a series-levelling result even on a pitch which never deteriorated.



Bell kept out 212 balls in all and Collingwood, a stalwart of both England's 2009 rearguards - not to mention a similar if ultimately fruitless exercise in self-denial at Adelaide three winters ago - operated, gloriously, at around 0.6 runs per over for his 40.



But after Collingwood finally edged to slip off Duminy and then Prior poked one off the face of the bat to be very well held by AB de Villiers at short leg in the same bowler's next over, South Africa had another chance in the evening sunshine.



Eleven overs remained; there were seven men round the bat to Duminy and Harris' spin, and England were looking more than ever to Bell to hold out.



The hosts turned again to Steyn's pace. But it was Harris who saw off Broad, who went to review but ought not to have done - and then Bell's dismissal left Graeme Swann and Onions to bail England out again.



Before the wicketless afternoon, Trott and Anderson had kept South Africa at bay for the first 11 overs.



They each had obvious extra motivation to defy the hosts, for different reasons.



Cape Town-born Trott was batting at a venue only a few hundred yards from his old school and where he first made his way as a professional cricketer for Boland.



Anderson, meanwhile, had his cage rattled after he and Broad were put in the frame when South Africa raised transitory concerns with match referee Roshan Mahanama over their suspicions of ball-tampering.



If Anderson thought he was going to have the last laugh this morning, though, he was mistaken - because after 45 minutes of concentration, he lost his wicket to a stroke of misfortune.



Lining up a sweep at a Harris full-toss, he under-edged the ball down on to his boot and then saw it fly back up to be brilliantly caught one-handed at backward short-leg by Ashwell Prince.



It was a cruel blow for England.



But new batsman Collingwood rightly reviewed and survived Tony Hill's decision when South Africa thought Harris had him caught at slip first ball. The good news for the tourists was that the ball had hit only his back thigh; the bad news was that it had turned and bounced alarmingly.



Trott fell to a beauty from Steyn, which ripped back off the seam to beat him through the gate on the back foot and knock out off-stump.



There was little he could have done. Yet by becoming the sixth of eight England dismissals in this match for scores between 40 and 80, he contributed to an uncomfortable statistic against hosts who could boast two hundreds - one almost a double - and a 95.



But in the final analysis, the only figures that mattered to England were 1-0.

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