Cook and first-drop Ian Bell batted with good patience and control early in the day, defying the Australians in the first session and adding 170 runs for the second wicket before Bell was dismissed by Shane Warne for a well made 87.

 

Bell played the more aggressive of the pair and looked on the way to a century himself before he drove at Warne only to be caught sharply by Justin Langer at short cover.

 

After watching Cook and Bell bat for almost two sessions, Paul Collingwood came to the crease and added five scratchy runs before Stuart Clarke produced a fantastic leg-cutter to have the Durham player edging to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist.

 

Ashes pundits have called for the exciting Pietersen to be elevated to number four in the England batting line up with Collingwood moved to number five and as soon as the South African-born batsman came to the crease it was plain to see why.

 

Collingwood took 36 deliveries to score just five runs, whereas Pietersen was immediately on the attack and putting the pressure back on the Australians using good footwork to Warne and going about his usual aggressive style of batting.

 

Cook stars, but falls late

 

21 year-old Cook scored his fourth Test century in only 12 matches as he showed maturity beyond his years in standing up to the formidable Australian attack and doing so at a time when his team needed it most.

 

McGrath, left, took two late wickets to keep
Australia's Ashes bid on course
The young opener, who turns 22 on Christmas Day, faced 290 balls for his eventual 116 and held the England innings together with his maiden Ashes hundred which is sure to be the first of many.

 

The tiring Cook had to face McGrath with the second new ball, and the wily bowler had the better of the young up-and-comer, as he had the centurion caught behind in the antepenultimate over of the day.

 

England night-watchman Matthew Hoggard came to the crease but only lasted two deliveries with McGrath uprooting his off-stump with another excellent delivery, bring the England captain to the middle to see off a nervous two overs.

 

With Pietersen looking well set on 37 and Flintoff due a big score, the experienced and aggressive pair could set up victory for their team if they can hang around long enough and keep the score ticking over on the final day.

 

Just as Australia chased down England’s declaration in the first innings at the Adelaide Oval before going on to win the second Test, the holders of the Ashes may just pull off a memorable victory of their own.