England's run of six successive Test series without defeat evaporated into the Lahore smog yesterday afternoon as Michael Vaughan suffered his worst day in the field since becoming captain in July 2003.
On that occasion South Africa scored an identical number of runs as Pakistan - 261 - for the loss of one wicket at Lord's on the second day of Vaughan's first game in charge, but the England bowlers dismissed Gary Kirsten, a South African front-line batsman.
Yesterday, on the third day of the final Test against Pakistan, England only managed to prise Shoaib Akhtar, the nightwatchman, from the crease. And the tourists could hardly say that it was great bowling which led to his demise. After batting responsibly for 95 minutes Shoaib became giddy, as most tail-enders do when they have batted for a lengthy period of time, and slogged a simple catch to Shaun Udal at deepish extra cover.
It gave Liam Plunkett a second Test wicket on his debut, but Shoaib had achieved his goal by taking Pakistan to within 41 runs of England's first-innings total of 288. Mohammad Yousuf and Kamran Akmal proved harder to dislodge and, through an unbeaten sixth-wicket partnership of 199, ensured that the fast bowler did not have to contemplate strapping on his bowling boots during the remainder of the day.
Yousuf scored an exquisite undefeated 183, and Kamran was not out on 115 as Pakistan reached 446 for 5 by the close. The pair even turned down the umpires' initial offer of bad light, but the experiment lasted four balls - Stephen Harmison tried to knock Kamran's head off with each delivery. Yet the gesture highlighted the strength of Pakistan's position. England, the team who were expected to take these sort of risks in an attempt to level the series, were now playing for nothing more than a draw and a 1-0 defeat.
It would be wrong to blame England's bowlers for the team's plight. Yes, they seldom looked like taking a wicket on what is now a lifeless pitch, but each gave his all. In this Test they have toiled manfully for little reward, but in the previous two games Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard have created opportunities for England to win. On each occasion, though, they have been let down by their batsmen.
Harmison continued to lead the attack admirably but had nothing to show for his endeavour. Flintoff ran in hard all day, but the effects of back to back-to-back Tests, unresponsive pitches and two batsmen in prime form proved too much for him here.
Recent England teams have had worse days than that experienced yesterday. At Edgbaston in 2003, in Nasser Hussain's last Test as England captain, South Africa scored 398 for 1 on the opening day. And in 1989 Australia posted 301 for 0 on the first day of the Trent Bridge Test.
Yours truly was one of the humbled bowlers in Nottingham and when I sat on my hotel bed at the end of the day I found it hard to believe that we had not come close to claiming the wicket of Mark Taylor and Geoff Marsh in more than 540 balls. Running in and remaining positive is difficult in these situations, and it does not take long before the crowd start expressing their disgust. I will never forget, as I was about to turn and bowl the first delivery with the second new ball, an England supporter standing up in the top tier of the old Radcliffe Road Stand and shouting: "Oi Fraser, why don't you piss off back to London, you're effing useless." I believe they call it character building.
Flintoff, Harmison and Hoggard have been through days like this before but the brilliance of Yousuf and Kamran has given Plunkett a tough introduction to Test cricket. Plunkett will need to improve considerably if he is to put England's main four Test bowlers - Harmison, Hoggard, Flintoff and Simon Jones - under pressure but he will benefit from the experience. Indeed, the more he bowled, the better he looked.
In circumstances like this a lot is expected of the spinner, yet Udal failed to give England the control or penetration required. Udal sent down 12 out of the 75.4 overs bowled yesterday, whereas Pakistan's contributed 32 on the opening day of the game. The ineffectiveness of Udal, and Ashley Giles before he returned home for a hip operation, is the principal reason why it was wrong for people to believe that England were the best side in the world after their Ashes success. It was a major achievement but Australia's spinners allow them to win consistently in the subcontinent. England have now lost their last series in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and only when they begin returning home from these destinations as victors can they lay claim to Australia's crown.
Even so, Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill would have struggled to trouble Yousuf and Kamran in this form. Yousuf crept from his overnight score of 84 to 99, and Vaughan attempted to put him under pressure by bringing his fielders in to save the single. The tactic failed to worry Yousuf, who shimmied down the pitch and cracked Udal back over his head for six. It was Yousuf's first century since converting to Islam from Christianity, and he sank to his knees to perform a "sajda", an Islamic gesture, before acknowledging the crowd's applause.
Kamran started his innings with a flurry of drives, and it was fitting that this shot should take him to a second Test century. He was dropped by Marcus Trescothick at slip on 95 but this will not be the last time he scores valuable runs for his country.
Highlights of day three
Shot of the day
KAMRAN AKMAL: Kamran's driving was magnificent throughout his innings and the shot that took him to three figures was as good as any. Kamran is small yet he has wonderful hands which allow him to keep the ball down when playing the shot.
Ball of the day
STEPHEN HARMISON: It is hard to find one. There was nothing special about the delivery that got Shoaib Akhtar, so we will have to go for Stephen Harmison's fourth short ball in a row to Kamran Akmal. It allowed England to get off the field.
MOHAMMAD YOUSUF: Batsmen celebrate hundreds in different ways, yet Yousuf's was unique. After hitting Shaun Udal for six he sank to his knees facing Mecca and began praying. It was his first Test century since becoming a Muslim.
Scoreboard from Lahore
England won toss; third day of five
England - First innings 288 (P D Collingwood 96)
Pakistan - First innings
(Overnight 185-4; Inzamam-ul-Haq ret hurt 35)
Mohammad Yousuf not out 183 553 min, 335 balls, 21 fours, 1 six
Shoaib Akhtar c Udal b Plunkett 38 95 min, 81 balls , 4 fours, 2 sixes
ÝKamran Akmal not out 115 252 min, 195 balls, 10 fours
Extras (b1, lb9, w4, nb7) 21
Total (for 5, 573 min, 127.4 overs) 446
Fall (cont): 5-247 (Shoaib Akhtar).
To bat: Mohammad Sami, Naved-ul-Hasan, Danish Kaneria.
Bowling: Hoggard 18-4-58-2 (5-2-11-2, 3-0-11-0, 4-2-4-0, 3-0-16-0, 3-0-16-0); Flintoff 29-8-66-0 (nb7, w1) (4-1-11-0, 4-2-4-0, 3-1-8-0, 3-1-11-0, 8-2-12-0, 4-0-15-0, 3-1-5-0); Harmison 33.4-3-115-1 (10-1-41-0, 12-1-35-1, 3-0-14-0, 5-1-13-0, 3-0-10-0, 0.4-0-2-0 ); Plunkett 24-1-95-2 (3-0-19-1, 2-0-7-0, 2-0-10-0, 1-0-1-0, 5-1-14-1, 5-0-19-0, 6-0-25-0); Udal 15-1-71-0 (3-0-19-0, 5-0-30-0, 7-1-22-0); Collingwood 6-0-22-0 (2-0-11-0, 1-0-5-0, 3-0-6-0); Bell 2-0-9-0 (one spell).
Progress: Third day (98 overs min): 200: 263 min, 58 overs. 250: 329 min, 72.4 overs. Lunch 265-5 (Mohammad Yousuf 114, Kamran Akmal 12) 79 overs. New ball: taken after 80 overs at 267-5. 300: 383 min, 85.5 overs. 350: 456 min, 100.4 overs. Tea 392-5 (Mohammad Yousuf 163, Kamran Akmal 81) 113 overs. 400: 509 min, 113.5 overs. Bad light stopped play 4.40pm.
Mohammad Yousuf 50: 102 min, 71 balls, 9 fours. 100: 282 min, 183 balls, 14 fours, 1 six. 150: 435 min, 278 balls, 18 fours, 1 six. Kamran Akmal 50: 127 min, 85 balls, 6 fours. 100: 230 min, 178 balls, 9 fours.
Umpires: D B Hair (Aus) and R E Koertzen (SA).
TV replay umpire: Zameer Haidar.
Match referee: R S Mahanama.