"BRITISH bulldog’’ Paul Collingwood personifies the mettle Andy Flower hopes will help England deliver a series victory in South Africa.

Collingwood was one of three players who covered themselves in glory as England somehow clung on with nine wickets down, for the second time in three matches, to deny their hosts victory in the third Test at Newlands.

Ian Bell and number 11 Graham Onions, reprising his central role to block out the final over just as he had in the first Test at Centurion, were the others who served their country so well yesterday.

Coach Flower was full of admiration as he reflected on England's winter achievements so far, and set his sights on finishing the job in the final Test in Johannesburg next week.

After their victory in Durban over Christmas, England are in an unbeatable position - 1-0 up in the series, with one match to play.

But Flower insisted: "We're not thinking about the fact we can't lose it. We want to win it - and we'd like to win it 2-0.’’ To that end, he is delighted to have Collingwood et al on his side.

"He's a typical British bulldog,’’ Flower said of the Durham batsman, who shared a century stand with Bell to keep South Africa at bay for 57 overs and buy Onions just enough time for his heroic repeat to again save the day.

"He's a great fighter, great to have in the changing room, lots of energy - and what we have seen is he's been using some of the experience gained over the years to help him through these situations.’’ England had to stand by Collingwood when he lost form at home to South Africa two summers ago, and have done likewise at times with Bell - selected in this series as an extra batsman when they could easily have gone down a different route.

Both have repaid the faith handsomely over the past two weeks, and Flower added: "When you talk about consistency of selection, that is one result of it - you get hardened cricketers from this exposure to playing the best sides in the world.

"We want to go on to greater things with this England side, so we're happy to have fight as a characteristic in our dressing room.

"But it's also something I think English cricketers will inherently have, because they're playing for their country.’’ Twenty-seven-year-old Bell appears a changed man in England's last two Tests - and Flower is hoping there is much more to come.

"His big hundred in Durban, that contributed to getting us into a winning position, and then a match-saving innings yesterday certainly will make him feel personally more confident,’’ he said.

"It was good for us to see that he can perform like that under pressure again.’’ Bell and others' runs were needed partly because Kevin Pietersen managed only six in two innings at Newlands.

Flower has no immediate concerns, though, about the well-being of one of England's most productive batsmen.

"All players have dips occasionally, and he's no different,’’ the coach said of Pietersen.

"He's got a superb record. He's had a dip just very recently - this last Test wasn't a good one for him personally - but he made his contributions to the draw as well, out in the field and in the changing room.

"What we're looking for is for him to get back into his normal, confident form - and I'm pretty confident he'll do that.’’ Some expert pundits think they have spotted a technical reason for Pietersen's struggles.

Flower does not necessarily subscribe to that, though.

"We always tweak things in our techniques, all through your career,’’ he said.

"Even the real greats like Tendulkar will be doing that.

"But I'm pretty sure Kevin will be back at his confident best very soon.’’ England's bowlers, meanwhile, had a tough Test - conceding 447 for seven in South Africa's second innings, and for their trouble then having their integrity questioned after the hosts voiced suspicions about ball-tampering.

It made for much mid-match controversy.

But Flower is adamant there was nothing untoward in Stuart Broad stopping a straight drive with the sole of his boot, or James Anderson rubbing his fingers over the ball.

"Our bowlers have shown a lot of skill with reverse swing,’’ he said.

"The abrasive pitches here have helped get the ball into condition to do it.

"We'll be going about things in exactly the same way.’’ Flower was unimpressed by South Africa's decision to raise concerns yet then decide against an official complaint - but does not believe the episode has damaged the spirit between two teams locked in a hard-fought series.

"If they wanted to raise it, they should have done it formally,’’ he contends.

"Relations are fine. They are two competitive units battling it out, so you expect a little bit of to-ing and fro-ing.’’