Press hail England's great escape at Ashes

LONDON: Media hailed most of England's cricket team as conquering heroes after they salvaged a draw against Australia in the first Ashes Test in Cardiff.

James Anderson and Monty Panesar were praised for their gritty determination after the last-wicket duo saw out the final 40 minutes at Sophia Gardens during a 69-ball stand that took England to safety on Sunday.

"England tasted one of those glorious dramatic draw yesterday that only Test cricket at the highest level of intensity can deliver," Simon Barnes wrote in The Times.

Bowler Panesar, for his part, said he just tried to stay calm and focused in the final minutes of the match.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Panesar also said he realised England had a "big chance" when Australia brought on part-time spinner Marcus North.

Paul Collingwood was also singled out in the press for his patient last-day innings of 74 which spanned nearly six hours.

"Collingwood, unshaven, sunburnt and mired in sweat and dust, batted for 17 minutes shy of six hours, 245 balls of sheer bloody-mindedness and self-restraint to take England to the brink of safety," The Times' Mike Atherton, a former England captain, said.

But the press rounded on some of England's top-order batsmen for their poor performances, saving savage criticism for Kevin Pietersen who made eight in the second innings and 69 in the first.

"The rest of the England batting, as it had been for most of the match, was at times pitiful in its application or ability to absorb fundamental lessons, " the Guardian newspaper's Mike Selvey - an ex-England pace bowler - wrote.

"Pietersen has run into real trouble in this Test. Ritual defiance will not protect him from the suspicion that his lone wolf tendancies are now hurting his team," the newspaper also said.

There was also little sympathy for Australian captain Ricky Ponting, after he complained of time-wasting by the home side during the tense final stages of the match.

The Daily Telegraph said "in similar circumstances most teams would have pushed their luck" as well.

Ponting, writing in the same newspaper, described England's tactics as "pretty ordinary" but said the Australian team would not dwell on them ahead of the second Test starting at Lord's on Thursday.

"We will play by the spirit of the game and leave the England team to whatever they do," Ponting said.