Frustration is the word I would use to sum up England so far this Test match because they have misplaced the fight and determination that served them so well at Edgbaston to give them a deserved 2-1 lead in the series.
In Birmingham they showed old-fashioned basics of line and length, hammered a fuller length with the ball and took their catches. But they have not looked like covering the basics here. The bowling was erratic and too short, the batting in the first innings was too undisciplined and their catching schoolboyish.
To be bowled out on again on the first day of a Test match was not good enough, and they have to start batting consistently for at least 125 overs in the first innings of matches if they are to be the world’s best team.
Since the start of last summer, a span of 21 Tests, England have only managed a score of 400 or above in the first innings of a match on six occasions. It is 20 Tests since a batsman in the top five other than Alastair Cook or Joe Root scored a century, and that was Adam Lyth, who was dropped a year ago.
The numbers prove that when England do score 400 they have a good game.
They have won three of the Test matches in which they have started with a 400 score and drawn the other three. It was by posting 589 in their first innings that they fought their way back at Old Trafford from 1-0 down. They managed to fight back and win at Edgbaston, but there are only so many times a team can do that.
The model for this team has to be the South African side that Graeme Smith developed. They too did not have a world-class spinner, but they had disciplined seam bowlers and patient batsmen. They were so difficult to dismiss twice in a match.
England have too much talent not to become a dominant team but individuals have to take responsibility to make sure they are hard to get out. They have the talent to score runs; it is about minimising the risks and batting for the team.
For a player the Oval Test is so important because it is the last time the selectors can judge you before picking the winter touring squads.
But England have just not been quite right mentally all week. A couple of them went on to social media a few minutes after play on Thursday to complain about Alex Hales’s first-innings dismissal. That is a sure sign that a team is getting distracted by something that has been and gone. Move on. They had to work with these umpires for possibly another four days, so why get on their wrong side?
Hales has a lot of anger built up inside him because he is frustrated by the fact that he has not spent enough time out in the middle. I was lucky because I had normally calmed down by the time I had reached the dressing room. I don’t mind players throwing the bat around in the dressing room when they get out, but that is where it stops. You do not steam out the back of the dressing room and attack the third umpire with verbals.
What he needs to do is sit down with Mark Ramprakash, the batting coach. He too had problems with inner anger. But now he has retired and is older in life he can offer Hales some advice on how to handle it and channel the frustration in the right direction.
Hales’s form in this series has proved that four Tests can be a long time in a player’s career. Against Sri Lanka we were seeing signs of improvement. He was batting much better. But now he is on a steep downward curve. He has had a couple of good balls, which you have to accept as an opener, but played some poor shots, too. I wrote last week that I believed England had to give Hales, Gary Ballance and James Vince a longer run in the side. I still believe that is the case.
But for England to compete in India they have to bat a lot longer in the first innings and stop gifting the opposition wickets with soft dismissals.
When they manage to bat properly and score 400, Moeen Ali becomes a threat with the ball. We have seen this summer that he bowls better when he has runs on the board. England are a good team when they take the match deep.
The cricketer in me wants them to be more efficient, but I have to admit that as a cricket fan they are more interesting to watch when they are inconsistent.
This series has been the most enjoyable I have watched at home since I became a commentator. In three of the four Tests we have arrived on days three and four not knowing which side is going to win. When you have two equally matched teams playing competitive cricket then the Test-match game is a wonderful product.
Credit goes to Pakistan and Misbah-ul-Haq. He has shown confidence in Younus Khan, who repaid him here, and has brought a calmness to their cricket which has allowed them to fight back twice in this series. They did it at Edgbaston until England started reversing it in the second innings, and have bounced back here after a defeat in Birmingham. They have probably won more sessions in this series than England. A 2-2 scoreline would be a fair reflection.