Michael Vaughan's disappointment at England's faltering struggle to save the first Test here was tempered by deep personal satisfaction at putting together what he believes is the best of his nine Test centuries.
The 28-year-old opening batsman has four times scored more runs in a Test and twice failed within touching distance of a double hundred against India last summer, but he rated yesterday's 156 at Edgbaston as the most satisfying of all.
"The first session of play yesterday was the toughest I've been through for a while," Vaughan said after surviving a searching spell of bowling from South Africa's Shaun Pollock on an increasingly difficult pitch.
"It reminded me of my debut in Johannesburg and I was happy just to hang in there. I would put Shaun in the same category as Glenn McGrath among Test bowlers, and on a wicket where the ball was playing a few tricks my technique was really tested.
"That's why I would rate it my best Test hundred. You have to remember that they had got 600 on the board, so we were under a lot of pressure. I knew that if I could stay in through that first period I could cash in during the afternoon so I was really glad I came through it.
"But having said that, I was still disappointed to get out on 156, more so than I feel when I don't make any runs. Once you get a hundred you want to go on because you know you are playing well. In some ways it is more disappointing to get out then than if you are out between nought and 10."
England go into the final day only 21 runs short of making South Africa bat again, but the loss of Andrew Flintoff, trapped leg before wicket to the last ball of the day, will put the pressure back on Nasser Hussain's team this morning.
"There wasn't much Freddie could do about that ball unfortunately because it just shot along the ground, but it means South Africa are definitely in the box seat," Vaughan said.
"We will have to show a lot of character tomorrow. South Africa have shown us that they have good bowlers and the track is getting a bit uneven. We know we could lose the game if we do not play well."
Confidence is high in the South African camp and the coach, Eric Simons, believes the 105 overs scheduled for the final day - playing times for each of the past three days were extended to compensate for Friday's washout - will make it hard for England to survive.
"Even if England avoid the follow-on I think we still have a chance of winning the game from this position," he said. "The wicket is really difficult and deteriorating incredibly and it is going to be a long day. It would be nice to make England follow on but there are two ways we can win the game."
* England expect Alec Stewart to be fit to bat and, if necessary, keep wicket today after ice pack treatment to his bruised left knee, which required him to finish his innings with a runner yesterday.Reuse content