Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 4th day November 25, 2006

Pietersen and Collingwood lead England's rearguard

England 157 and 5 for 293 (Pietersen 92*, Jones 12*) need another 355 runs to beat Australia 9 for 602 dec and 1 for 202 dec (Ponting 60*, Langer 100*)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary
How they were out - Australia
How they were out - England

Paul Collingwood was emboldened by Pietersen's presence, but the enormity of a maiden Ashes hundred proved too much © Getty Images

Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood showed some belated fight for England on the fourth afternoon at the Gabba, combining brilliantly in a 153-run stand for the fourth wicket that went some way towards redressing the psychological imbalance of the first three days. It was, however, all destined to be too little too late for a team that, in spite of everything, still finished the day a whopping 355 runs in arrears, with just five wickets remaining to see them through the final day.

Pietersen, at least, was still there at the close, unbeaten on 92 with 14 fours from 152 balls. It was another innings laced with genius from a man who proved once again that he is addicted to the centre stage - even when that stage happens to be on the bows of the Titanic as she slips beneath the waves. His joust with Shane Warne was the highlight of the day, and arguably even the match, given that everything that had preceded it was desperate and crushing one-way traffic.

And it was a joust that finished with honours even, albeit with a touch of controversy in the air. Warne, as expected, was Australia's chief threat in this fourth innings, licking his lips as he contemplated the prospect of two days of unrestrained attack. He finished the day with four of the five wickets to fall, including England's first-innings mini-hero, Ian Bell, for a duck, and a crestfallen Collingwood, stumped for 96 as the enormity of a maiden Ashes hundred overwhelmed his judgment.

Warne's other victims were no less significant. Alastair Cook, in his first Test against the maestro, had once again shown maturity beyond his 21 years to move along to a gritty 43, until he was treated to one of Warne's specials, a ripping legbreak that gripped the rough like a tank-track to graze the edge of a flaccid defensive shot, and cannon off the pad to Mike Hussey at short-leg. And then, in the dying overs of the day, he bagged the captain, Andrew Flintoff, who had made 16 from four hard-hit boundaries, but then had one of his rushes of blood and miscued a horrible hoick to a motionless Justin Langer at long-on.

Given their predicament, it was a wonder that England were playing any attacking strokes at all. They began their chase after five overs of the day, which had been enough time for Langer to add the 12 runs he needed for a richly-merited 23rd Test century, and were set the impossible total of 648 for victory. And yet, Andrew Strauss was another who succumbed to the flashing blade, as he swivel-pulled a short ball from Stuart Clark straight down the throat of the substitute fielder, Ryan Broad - one of two men set back for the stroke at fine leg.

Shane Warne dismisses Alastair Cook, the first of his four wickets © Getty Images

At the same time, though, attack was the only mindset that England dared to adopt. With victory out of the question and the draw a nigh-on-impossible ask, the onus was on the batsmen to lay down some markers for the struggles that lie ahead. And none rose to the challenge better than Pietersen, who arrived at the crease at 3 for 91, with Warne on a roll and men all round the bat. With great circumspection, he played himself in, needing 10 Warne deliveries to score his first run, but then instantly snapped into his more traditional mode, as he flashed at a Lee short ball and edged for four over the slips.

At this stage of the innings, it was Collingwood who was England's most bankable source of defiance. A battler by nature, he had been entrenched until Pietersen's arrival, doggedly defying the best efforts of Warne and Clark, who was given extra duties after McGrath limped off with a bruised left heel. With Ricky Ponting feeling a twinge in his upper back while batting, it was a busy day for the Australian physiotherapist, Alex Kountouris.

But Collingwood was emboldened by Pietersen's presence, uppercutting Lee for an astonishing six that was caught by the sightscreen operator, before drilling Warne into the stands with a two-step down the pitch. As England's score mounted, so Collingwood's fluency grew and the Barmy Army found their true voice for the first time in the match. But for all their efforts, one always sensed that, with such a wily operator as Warne, disaster was just around the corner. Sure enough, Collingwood found the nervous nineties were too much to combat, and his second charge at Warne proved fatal.

Pietersen, however, was unstoppable. He had one massive let-off against Warne when, having crashed two fours in a row to move to 44, he aimed a wild cut at that big legbreak, and seemed to feather an under-edge to Gilchrist. All the Australians were up in a flash, but umpire Bucknor was unmoved. There was little love lost between Warne and Pietersen either, not least when Warne aimed a shy at Pietersen's head that had to be swatted away in a hurry.

But for the most part it was Pietersen doing the swatting. Not even McGrath was spared, as he was flogged on the up through the covers twice in two balls, the sort of audacity that none of England's fearful batsmen had dared show in the first innings. With Ponting off the field for much of the day with his back problem, and with rumours of a thunderstorm sweeping the press box, it was the most optimistic day of England's tour. With Pietersen at the helm, England had finally made an appearance in this Ashes series.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo