It is difficult to see beyond an England victory over Pakistan at the Kia Oval this week. If it happens and they go top of the Test rankings then that is a good achievement but they know to be deemed the team of an era they will have to go away from home and regularly win in alien conditions.
They reached No 1 in 2011 but only stayed there for a short period. It is a nice headline grabber but counts for nothing unless you can continue developing. At the moment the No 1 position is changing every five minutes.
The current Australia side look very strong in home conditions but do not travel. South Africa are dangerous when everyone is fit but this generation is reaching the end of the road and you wonder about their pathway system producing talent for the future.
New Zealand are a fine team but, like England, lack a world-class spinner. Pakistan are strong at home, India the same. India are beating the West Indies in the Caribbean at the moment but the pitches there are spinning. Like Pakistan, India are vulnerable when the ball swings around.
So we have an era of teams that are very similar. They are difficult to beat at home but very vulnerable on the road. Winning away is the ultimate goal for all.
England won in South Africa last winter, playing really well at the Wanderers, where there was assistance for their seam and swing bowlers. But we know they play well in such conditions; it is winning in India this winter that will set them apart.
It is difficult to see them beating an India side on home soil led by Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble over the course of five Tests without a world-class spinner. But even if winning is expecting too much, I can envisage England competing if they replicate their second innings performance at Edgbaston on a regular basis.
They batted with discipline for a long period and showed the real character and inner strength this team are developing. The pitch was not bouncy or swinging. They faced a deficit of 103 with two or three batsmen under pressure against a Pakistan bowling attack including Yasir Shah. But they came through it with determination and skill, and that impressed me more than anything else.
They will need that resilience and belief they can win from any situation to be successful in India where they will have to withstand quality spinners bowling with men around the bat. They will need good technique, and good game awareness, the traits they showed at Edgbaston.
The last day at Edgbaston showed that reverse swing is going to be their main bowling weapon on the subcontinent. The spinners will chip away but if the seamers get it reversing they have a chance.
They have worked out a way to play Shah. At Lord’s they made the mistake of playing him like a leg-spinner who turns the ball a long way. Once they realised he doses not spin it, they played him straighter off the front foot and hit the ball back where it came from. They have cut out the reckless shots against him, ensuring he has to bowl lots of overs. Shah has not reacted to that well. I have not seen him change anything.
In the second innings at Edgbaston I was amazed how straight he bowled. He did now bowl wide of the off stump to the right-handers which would make the straight ball more of a ball threat. He should have bowled round the wicket into the footholes more but he made easy for England in the second innings.
Now I am looking forward to seeing if he has changed anything. He is a quality leg-spinner but all bowlers get found out if they become too predictable. England will play him comfortably this week if he does not change. But if he alters his release points and uses the crease, he could replicate his Lord’s performance.
Younus Khan has been a great player but is struggling and my advice is just to try and stand still. Don’t jump around so much. It is ridiculous how much he bounces on his feet. How can you know where your off stump is when jumping around? Yes he has always been unorthodox but all school kids are taught to keep the eyes still on release of the ball.
At the moment he is playing defensively at so many balls that are a yard and a half outside off stump. He has just got to find out where his off stump is and the only way to do that is by standing still.