Pakistan v England, 3rd Test, Lahore, 5th day December 3, 2005

Vaughan - Batsmen to blame

Vaughan: 'In every spell Shoaib bowled a couple of beautiful slower balls' © AFP
Michael Vaughan put a brave face on the most humiliating defeat of his reign as England captain, admitting that Pakistan had played the better cricket throughout the three-Test series.

Vaughan, who watched helplessly from the dressing-room as England shipped their last eight wickets in 69 balls to lose by an innings and 100 runs, singled Shoaib Akhtar out for particular praise.

"I thought he was a big difference between the two teams," said Vaughan, after Shoaib had ripped through England's tail to cap a fine allround series with figures of 5 for 71, and 8 for 116 in the match. He finished the series as the leading wicket-taker with 17.

"We just couldn't apply ourselves in the conditions," added Vaughan. "Shoaib bowled a mystery of slow balls, yorkers and bouncers, and he bowled good spells throughout the whole series. He's been a massive threat and has got out our key batsmen at crucial times."

Shoaib entered the series under something of a fitness cloud, and Vaughan hinted that his perpetual menace had caught England unawares. "It's been a surprise that he sustained the consistency," he said. "His discipline and line has been excellent, and his variations have been very very good. In every spell he bowled a couple of beautiful slower balls.

"I think every time he got the ball in his hands he proved a real threat to our batsmen and put us in lot of pressure," added Vaughan. "We gifted them a few too many wickets in the first innings, and after the last day at Multan, we were never really in a position to put Pakistan under pressure."

England's final-day rearguard had begun in impressive fashion, as Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell batted throughout the morning session to extend their third-wicket stand to 175. But Collingwood fell in the first over after lunch for 80, and from then on the rest of the innings was a procession.

"Throughout the series we haven't applied ourselves as best as we could," said Vaughan. "Paul and Belly got us through to lunch, but after that Shoaib produced a good spell of bowling, Kaneria took a couple of quick wickets.

"To be honest they played better cricket than we have. You can look back to Multan and say we should have won that game, but throughout the three-match series, Pakistan put us more under pressure than we managed."

For Vaughan, the defeat was just his sixth in 33 matches as England captain, a reign that reached its zenith last summer with victory over Australia, but has now reached an undoubted low. Now, with a testing tour of India awaiting after Christmas, he admitted that the coming months would be a test of character.

'Our bowlers have tried as hard as they can...but our batters we didn't apply themselves enough in these conditions to get the big scores and put them under enough pressure' © AFP

"A real test of a team's unity is when you lose a series like this," he said. "If the team stays together which I am sure they will do, we work hard when we go to India for test series, try and play well in the one-dayers and make sure to go to India with a better team."

After the Ashes, there had been some notion that England were set to challenge Australia's undisputed as world champions, but Vaughan dismissed such thoughts. "We are still a long way from becoming the No. 1 team in the world because of the fact we haven't played everywhere. We are still a very good team we just have to make sure we learn and learn fast in these conditions.

There was no doubt, however, in which department the blame for the series loss was residing. "Our bowlers have tried as hard as they can," Vaughan stressed. "We claimed 20 wickets in the first Test but our batters we didn't apply themselves enough in these conditions to get the big scores and put them under enough pressure. When you are outplayed you don't deserve to win."

"We've got to go to India in February and March and make sure that we don't repeat the mistakes that were made here. It's hard work playing in subcontinent and players have to realise that. We should try and make sure we get 20 wickets and make sure we make big totals in the first innings."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo