Steve Harmison: the key to England's fortunes © Getty Images
Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's coach, refused to accept that the first Test had slipped completely out of his side's reach, despite a century from England's captain, Andrew Strauss, that had established a healthy overnight lead of 341.

"This Test isn't over by a long chalk," said Woolmer. "It all depends on what England want to do. Ideally we'd have liked to bowl them out and chase 270-280 - that was our gameplan. But with 90 overs available tomorrow, anything over 350 will be tough.

"Steve Harmison's the key," added Woolmer. "It's a new-ball pitch now, and Harmison and [Matthew] Hoggard use it well. The key is to get through those two, because when the ball dies it becomes very flat, and at 77 overs, it's just like a rubber ball really - very difficult to get any purchase.

"We've done pretty well considering we lost a number of players immediately before the Test match," he added, after the spate of injuries that resulted in the absence of key men such as Younis Khan, Mohammad Asif and Shoaib Malik. "It's not as though we were prepared for that." Asif and Malik have since flown home with elbow injuries, where they have joined Pakistan's regular spearhead, Shoaib Akhtar, on a lengthy sick list.

It has been suggested that Pakistan came into the Test undercooked, after a hectic but less-than-satisfactory round of warm-up matches, including first-class games against Leicestershire and England A. But Woolmer disagreed. "That's just modern cricket," he shrugged. "We practiced hard beforehand, but what really happened was that we lost a key bowler in Asif. He holds the line, holds the length, and without him that puts extra pressure on the seam attack."

That pressure came to bear on the first day especially, when five catches went down, including three to Imran Farhat in the slips. "Poor old Farhat's had one of those games," conceded Woolmer, "but on day two we were much better and today was a real battle. To win the game, we really had to knock them over today."

Regardless of Woolmer's tacit implication that England had enough runs in the bank already, Strauss himself refused to be drawn on when the declaration might come. "It's going to be an interesting day's cricket," he demurred. "We'll sleep on it overnight, but the important thing today was to get far enough ahead to make a declaration, because we kept losing wickets at awkward times.

"The wicket is still pretty good, but there are quite a few cracks that might widen up overnight and early tomorrow. Monty will be able to exploit that, and it'll put doubts in the Pakistani minds if it starts going up and down as well. We'll have to play well, no doubt, but there's no reason why we can't go ahead and win it tomorrow."

Strauss, however, had no doubts who would be England's key man as the final day unfolds. "Harmy did a very good job in first innings in tough conditions. The new ball is when the variable bounce is at its greatest so it's important we take wickets then. There is going to be a certain amount of pressure on our bowlers but that's what Test cricket is all about. It's about pressure and putting in performances when they are needed."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo