Michael Vaughan admitted to mixed emotions after the second Test at Faisalabad had petered out to a draw. After being set an improbable 285 to win and give themselves a chance of a seventh straight series victory, England instead crashed to 20 for 4 as Shoaib Akhtar worked himself up to a scorching pace. By the time the middle-order had come to England's rescue, disappointment had been tempered by relief.
"Over the five days we've played some good cricket," said Vaughan afterwards, "but they put us under some pressure today and when you're 20 for 4 you're happy to get out with a draw. We created a few opportunities over the course of the match, but on a wicket like that which is very flat it's sometimes hard to force a result once you lose the toss."
England had been playing catch-up ever since Pakistan posted a formidable 462 in their first innings, and though they hauled themselves into contention with a fiery spell from Andrew Flintoff on the fourth evening, their ambitions were thwarted by a masterclass from Inzamam-ul-Haq. His second century of the match ended any lingering hopes that England might have had of forcing a result.
"He was the difference between the sides in the whole of the game," said Vaughan. "We thought we had a couple of decent shouts against him last night, but these things happen. He's playing very very well, he knows his game and he knows these conditions, but we need to make sure we try and get them under pressure at Lahore."
Inzamam's enduring presence at the crease presented England with a dilemma in the morning session, as Vaughan made abundantly clear by turning down the option of the new ball. "It was always going to be difficult once the target got near 240-250, on a last-day wicket, against those kind of bowlers," he said. "We tried to put them under pressure in the first six overs, but once that had gone, it was a matter of delaying the declaration and make sure we batted the least amount of overs as possible."
That statement raised the intriguing possibility that Andrew Strauss's grievous miss at midwicket, when Inzamam had made 79, was all part of a cunning plan. "I think they were 245 ahead at that stage, and with the possibility of only 60 overs, it was going to be tough," said. "Our best opportunity was to get Inzamam last night, when Freddie was running in and reversing it. We didn't get that, so today was a good day to get the draw."
It will be tough for England to force a victory in the final Test at Lahore. It is the most northerly venue of the three, and the start time has been pushed back to 10am because of the problem of early-morning dew. "We're still looking back at that Multan Test as an opportunity missed," admitted Vaughan. "We don't need to improve that much, we just need to get into a position to win earlier than we have done.
"The toss will be quite crucial," he added. "If we can make Pakistan chase the game, that might be a difference. At the minute they are setting up the game by batting first, but the boys can take a lot of heart from the way they chased down their 462 in the first innings, while the seam bowlers have done a tremendous job once again, to keep running in on that kind of surface."
One aspect of England's game has not been firing, however - the spin pairing of Ashley Giles and Shaun Udal - and Vaughan conceded there could be changes for Lahore. "These first-day wickets are difficult to bowl on," he said in mitigation, "and even [Danish] Kaneria hasn't taken a wicket in the match which is a big positive for the team. But we'll look at our formula, and find the best attack possible to try and win that game."