ENGLAND mustered a final-day batting performance of supreme defiance to rescue the unlikeliest of draws from the first Ashes Test in Cardiff yesterday.<br /><br />After the home side had lost three quick wickets in a disastrous start to the day all-rounder Paul Collingwood frustrated Australia with a heroic 245-ball <br />stint that lasted almost six hours.<br /><br />And when he departed last-wicket pair James Anderson and Monty Panesar dug their heels in for another 40 minutes to ensure England will go into the second Test at Lord’s on Thursday on level terms.<br /><br />Such an outcome had seemed unthinkable, with Andrew Strauss’s men staring a humiliating innings defeat in the face for most of the day.<br /><br />Resuming on 20-2 and needing 219 runs to avoid an innings loss, England suffered a miserable first session, slumping to 70-5 before lunch.<br /><br />Kevin Pietersen was the first casualty, losing his off-stump to Ben Hilfenhaus, and captain Strauss soon followed, caught behind after mistiming a cut off Nathan Hauritz.<br /><br />Matt Prior went next, his attempted late-cut finding Michael Clarke at slip and, still needing to bat out another two sessions, England looked doomed.<br /><br />But Collingwood had other ideas. Having escaped a scare early on, when he gloved Hauritz onto his pad only for the ball to evade Simon Katich at short-leg, the Durham man was content to defend. And he and Andrew Flintoff put on 57 runs before the Lancashire all-rounder edged Mitchell Johnson to Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting at first slip. <br /><br />Stuart Broad helped add another 32 before becoming Nathan Hauritz’s third victim of the day while Graeme Swann was eventually also dismissed lbw, this time by Hilfenhaus.<br /><br />Things took a turn for the worse when, with 11.3 overs left and England still trailing by six runs, Collingwood’s valiant effort finally ended, Michael Hussey catching at the second attempt in the gully.<br /><br />But Anderson and Panesar battled on in the same spirit and stood firm for 69 deliveries. Anderson nudged England past Australia’s total with successive boundaries, trimming 10 minutes off the match in the process. <br /><br />And paceman Anderson clinched the sweetest draw of Strauss’s short captaincy by scrambling a bye off the final ball from Hauritz.