Strauss salutes Collingwood and Bell

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The Independent Online

England captain Andrew Strauss paid tribute to two "exceptional innings" from Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell as England claimed yet another famous draw in the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.

Set a world-record 466 to win, England only ever had realistic hopes of a stalemate today - and a sixth-wicket stand of 112 in 57 overs between Bell and Collingwood appeared to have put the tourists on course.

But when both fell in the closing overs, it left Graeme Swann and Graham Onions with 17 balls to bat out for a repeat of England's heroics at Cardiff and Centurion last year.

They did so, meaning England go to Johannesburg next Thursday knowing they cannot lose the series and, with England closing on 296 for nine, South Africa have been within one wicket of victory twice in three matches.

Strauss said: "It wasn't fun the first time and the second was a lot worse.

"We started today outsiders to get the draw and we knew it would take something special.

"Paul Collingwood an Ian Bell played two exceptional innings."

Collingwood made 40 from 188 deliveries and Bell 78 from 213, but it was not enough to save England another nervy finish.

"Just when we thought we'd nearly got there South Africa came back again," said Strauss.

"Graham Onions: he's a legend isn't he? We keep asking our number 11 to do the job for us.

"We're very thankful still to be 1-0 up in the series."

It was a big innings for Bell who has often been criticised for not performing under pressure.

"I know how desperate he's been to play an innings like that for England," said Strauss. "He showed his class.

"It bodes well for the future and he's a pretty satisfied guy in the dressing room."

At 1-0 up with one match to play, England will win the series if they can avoid defeat in Johannesburg.

"We didn't come here to draw a series," said Strauss. "We've got to make improvements. We had opportunities in the first innings in particular which we didn't take."

Strauss also shrugged off talk of ball-tampering from his team, which has been flying around over the past two days, insisting the spirit between the two sides remained fine.

"It seems okay," he said. "We would strongly deny any of those allegations.

"Thankfully the game of cricket is going to be in the headlines tomorrow and that's the right thing."

Collingwood, a veteran of England great escapes, told Sky Sports 1: "It's great when you are out in the middle and in control but when you have to watch it from the changing rooms it's horrible.

"We were four down pretty early on and the odds were stacked against us so I think we did a fantastic job and we've got every right to celebrate it (the draw). It felt good.

"We were under a lot of pressure but we have come through and now we've got an important game in Joburg. We've put ourselves in a good position going into it.

"We didn't come here to draw the series, we came here to win it. But we've got some really hard work to come at the Wanderers next week."

Bell answered the critics who question his ability to score runs for England in pressure situations.

He said: "It is something people have always said about me. Can he get ugly runs, important runs when it counts. I have done it several times for Warwickshire but going out and doing it for England is a different kettle of fish."

Last man Graham Onions, who survived 11 balls at the death to clinch the draw, said: "It was quite an important 11 balls to survive but they (Collingwood and Bell) batted a long time to get us into the position where we could draw the game."

South Africa skipper Graeme Smith, named man-of-the-match for his second innings 183, was understandably disappointed that his side could not quite finish England off and square the series.

"We've been very positive throughout but we were just not good enough to throw the final punch and get over the line and credit to Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell for the way they fought," he said.

"Our bowlers really gave 100 per cent. Dale (Steyn) bowled a lot of overs in the heat and had some wear and tear and Friedel (de Wet) had a back injury in the first innings and has not recovered which was disappointing for us."

Looking ahead to the final Test in Johannesburg, Smith said: "Hopefully at the Wanderers we can go all the way. We won the last series (against England) and, if we can level it up next week, we can hold on to the trophy.

"We have a few questions to answer in terms of our game and a few of our guys have fought off questions during this Test.

"We were under pressure when we lost the toss and we're put in with the ball moving around and we showed a lot of character to set up a decent first innings total."

Smith also paid tribute to the South Africa fans for their backing in a dramatic Test and to the Cape Town pitch.

He said: "I lost my grandfather at the beginning of the series so it was quite an emotional hundred for me here and the support we have received from the home fans has been terrific throughout.

"The groundsman has done a superb job. The pitch got a little bit slow as the game wore on but it was a good Test wicket and the match went down to the last ball."