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.’’