England's powerful middle order folded tamely to turn a winning position into chastening defeat on the final day of the first Test match against Pakistan here yesterday.
Stand-in captain Marcus Trescothick was reluctant to apportion specific blame for England?s desultory stumble from 64 for one to 175 all out in pursuit of only 198 to win the opening match of this three-Test series.
The resulting 22-run reverse means it will be a long haul back for England to rescue even a series draw over the next two weeks against hosts who will be prepared for the attritional cricket required to hang on to their lead.
The tourists resumed yesterday with the prospect of a comfortable victory in their sights and were well-placed to coast home while Ian Bell, the Warwickshire right-hander, and Andrew Strauss added 57 for the second wicket.
But once those two were out in the same over to Danish Kaneria?s leg-spin, kickstarting a disastrous passage of play for England as they lost three wickets for three runs in eight balls, a terminal slide set in.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Geraint Jones and Shaun Udal gave England renewed hope in an eighth-wicket stand of 49 as they showed the ?appli-cation? Trescothick noted was lacking elsewhere.
In the end, though, it proved too little too late --because, once Jones had played on to Shoaib Akhtar, the remaining two wickets were unable to lift England over the line.
Trescothick was measured in his assessment of where it had all gone wrong but did concede England should have done better.
?I thought we would knock them off pretty comfortably,? said the man whose first-innings 193 laid the foundation for England to dominate the rest of this match. ?I thought there might be a bit of a struggle here and there, with a leg-spinner bowling on a fifth-day wicket, but I still expected us to win.
?All we needed was to get one partnership in the middle just by batting time, and then I?m sure things would have completely changed.?
Jones and Udal proved his point, producing the sensible batting which was required - just not quite enough of it.
?They took their time, played it around for a little while and took as many singles as they could, trying to build a partner-ship together,? he said.
?We probably just needed a bit more application. If we?d occupied a little bit more time at the crease and batted a session out I think runs would have come pretty easily.?
It was the introduction of Kaneria (four for 62) which put a hole in England?s batting order and their confidence, too, as he found turn and bounce on a pitch which had offered little if any assistance to bowlers off all paces for the previous four days.
Bell edged behind shaping to cut a Kaneria leg-break and then Strauss nicked one to slip - playing slightly across a top-spinner.
Paul Collingwood was stone cold lbw aiming Mohammad Sami to leg before talisman Andrew Flintoff hinted at a revival until he swept Kaneria straight into the hands of deep mid-wicket.
Kevin Pietersen - badly short of runs on this tour -edged Sami behind via a flat-footed drive at a widish delivery.
Ashley Giles middled a couple of leg-side blows off Kaneria before a Shoaib Akhtar yorker proved far too good for him.
Jones and Udal fell just short of retrieving the situation, leaving the last pair to make 32 runs. The task proved well beyond them.
Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer saw the outcome as a triumph of perseverance for his team, whose faulty first-innings batting squandered the advantage of batting first and left them playing catch-up.
?We were behind the eight-ball for a long time,? the former England batsman and Warwickshire coach said. ?England troubled us for at least two and a half days. But cricket is a waiting game and if you hang in there you still have a chance.?
Woolmer and his captain Inzamam- ul- Haq knew they were up against it as England set out with nine wickets still intact yesterday morning.
Woolmer said: ?Last night I said to my wife we are staring down the barrel.
?But the team were very positive, and that one wicket last night just gave us a bit of hope. We said things can happen on a fifth-day pitch, wherever it is in the world. We just had to hang in there and hope they made mistakes -which they did.
?It was a great performance by all the boys. They worked very hard and deserved to win, because they never gave up.?
Trescothick was also prepared to give Pakistan credit, saying: ?They bowled pretty well on a wicket that was turning, and Danish Kaneria is obviously a world-class spinner.
?We are pretty disappointed to have lost the game but we don?t think there is any reason to change anything dramatically at the moment.?
England spoke before this tour of the tough challenge facing them to follow up their unexpected Ashes triumph of last summer.
It will be significantly harder from here on in -but Trescothick said: ?It?s not going to knock us down completely. It is only one game in a three-match series.
?In this game we have played four and a half days and dominated probably four of those. We just needed to finish it off as we have most times in previous games.?
Pakistan captain Inzamam- ul- Haq compared the victory to his team?s memorable recent wins over India, saying: ?It is surely one of our best wins. It is nice to win against a team that has beaten Australia and won the Ashes and it can be compared to our wins over India in Lahore and Bangalore in recent times. It is memorable.
?It is nice to beat a strong team like England but this victory does not mean we have won the series. They are a very good team and they are still two games to go.?