SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia's cricket writers on Sunday hailed old nemesis Kevin Pietersen's fighting century in the third Test, saying the knock had tempered the tourist's hopes of a dramatic Ashes comeback.
Pietersen's first hundred of this Ashes series and his 23rd overall in Tests helped put England within sight of avoiding the follow-on at Manchester's Old Trafford on Saturday.
At the close of the third day, England were 294 for seven -- still 233 runs behind -- after Pietersen had made 113.
While Michael Clarke's team will still fancy their chances of creeping back into the series, Australia's scribes conceded that Pietersen's knock had made it all the more difficult of staying alive with two Tests to play.
Some pointed to Pietersen's game-changing innings of 158 in the drawn final Test that helped England win the 2005 series and said with his latest batting masterpiece he could have thwarted Australia again.
"Painful memories of 2005 resurfaced at Old Trafford today as Kevin Pietersen yet again interposed himself between Australia and a desperate Ashes revival," The Australian's Wayne Smith wrote.
Australia is down 2-0 in the series but the third Test began well for the tourists who declared at 527 and sent in England to bat.
"The wickets came, but in a slow drip feed. Never could the Australians get a run-on and the reason was Pietersen," wrote Smith.
Fairfax Media's Malcolm Knox said Pietersen chose his moments to excel for England well.
"It wasn't his best - his 186 last November in Mumbai stands as one of the greatest innings of modern times - but, as is his knack, his contribution was critical in determining the ultimate result of this contest. He does choose his moments well," Knox said.
The Australian's cricket columnist Gideon Haigh said of Pietersen: "Can anyone conceivably think other than that Pietersen is second only to James Anderson in Ashes irreplaceability? Not after today they can't.
"Yes, there is so much to irritate about him -- the prodigality, the histrionics, the warhorse prance, the fancy ink, but my word, no modern batsman can complicate opponents' lives so quickly, and no member of England's order causes Australians such confusion."
The Daily Telegraph's Malcolm Conn was another lavish in his tributes.
"Kevin Pietersen is pure theatre. He is one of those rare beings who is bigger than the game. The star who entertains the masses and inspires a generation," Conn wrote.
Pietersen's century gave him 7,697 runs at 49 with 23 centuries in 97 Tests and sent him past captain Alastair Cook and Colin Cowdrey into sixth place on the list of England's all-time run makers, with Mike Atherton not far ahead.