England completed a memorable year by conquering unfamiliar conditions and spoiling tactics to claim an historic and thrilling victory over Pakistan.

Even before flying out to Karachi two months ago they had endured a dramatic 12 months with a successful run chase against South Africa in the tainted Test at Centurion, the heart-stopping triumph over West Indies at Lord's and the two-day win at Headingley.

But their achievement in beating their Caribbean rivals for the first time in 31 years was eclipsed yesterday with a success which represents tangible progress towards re-establishing themselves among world cricket's elite.

It was their sixth victory from 12 Tests this year, and is an indication of the vast strides they have made since their arrival, when the unfamiliarity with top-class spinners on helpful wickets was expected to prove their downfall.

Guided by the experience and guile of Graham Thorpe, the tourists completed victory in barely playable light. Chasing a target of 176 off a minimum of 44 overs , they got home with 15 balls to spare after dismissing their opponents for a lowly 158.

There seemed little likelihood of either side forcing a result on a benign pitch with Pakistan resuming 88 runs ahead on 71 for three.

But this England side excel at prospering against the odds and turned an inevitable stalemate into an outstanding triumph with a performance bristling with determination, resolve and inner belief.

After dismissing Pakistan for their lowest home total against England, they overcame the loss of three early wickets and their opponents' attempts to derail their chase to ensure a lively flight home.

Pakistan captain Moin Khan employed increasingly obvious tactics to slow down the over rate, which averaged nine an hour in the 41 minutes up to tea to earn a rebuke from umpire Steve Bucknor and an interval meeting with match referee Ranjan Madugalle.

Unable to invoke the five-run penalty introduced into the laws this year because they have not been applied to international cricket, the official instead allowed England to carry on in fading light, despite Pakistan's protests.

Concerned about how many overs they would be allowed in the dusk, England were forced to take early risks as they set out in their chase and lost Michael Atherton, Marcus Trescothick and Alec Stewart in quick succession.

But Thorpe is a master at chasing a total, as he proved in helping England win a one-day international at the same venue earlier in the tour, and set out to keep the scoreboard ticking over at four an over.

Restricted to pushing singles and working the ball around by Pakistan's successful marshalling of the boundaries, he teamed up with Graeme Hick in a decisive partnership which was broken with 20 needed for victory.

Hick had been promoted to No 4 because of his one-day prowess. But lacking any fluency because of his struggles earlier in the series, he quickly resorted to matching Thorpe and attempted accumulation rather than explosive strokeplay.

It took him 20 overs before pulling Waqar Younis for his first boundary, but he fell in Waqar's next over when he was bowled attempting a drive over the top, having helped add 91.

Captain Nasser Hussain could have followed from the next ball, edging behind, but Moin failed to take the catch and Thorpe accelerated towards the target to inflict Pakistan's first Test defeat in Karachi.

The emotional scenes as Hussain and Thorpe ran to join the dressing room celebrations were a far cry from the start of the day, when Pakistan overcame the loss of night watchman Saqlain Mushtaq in the fifth over to progress comfortably.

Saleem Elahi and Yousuf Youhana were tied down by Ashley Giles delivering six successive maidens, but seemed in little difficulty during a 50-run partnership which guided Pakistan to 128 for four just two overs before the interval. But the loss of the prolific Youhana sparked a collapse of six wickets for 30 runs either side of lunch and gave England just enough time to complete their historic victory.

Giles, already England's record wicket-taker during a series in Pakistan, added two more to take his tally to 16 and finished with three for 38 before Darren Gough ended the innings to grab three for 30.

But the real inspiration behind England's magnificent triumph was the presence of Thorpe, who battled for 148 minutes to finish unbeaten on 64 and even employed team-mates to move side screens and save vital time before fittingly hitting the winning runs off Saqlain.

l Former England boss Ray Illingworth last night heaped praise on Nasser Hussain, particualarly for bringing the best out of Scarborough-based Craig White.

White finished the three-match Test series with 178 runs at an average of 59.33, which placed him second in the England batting list to Michael Atherton. He shocked Pakistan with the pace of his bowling off the pitch and claimed nine wickets at 30.44 apiece.

His successes have fully justified the faith which Illingworth showed in him when he first picked him to play for England in 1994, despite criticism in some quarters.

"I always knew the talent was there with Craig. But his self-confidence needed nourishing and Atherton when he was captain was unable to help him with this as much as he might have done," said Illingworth - who led England to their 1-0 home series win over Pakistan in 1971.

"Nasser Hussain has done a lot to help him find his confidence but if it had happened earlier he could have been where he is now about four years ago. Craig has always been a quality player."