We have seen enough from Alex Hales and James Vince in this Test to prove they can play at this level and should be given more time in the team. I would take them on tour this winter and continue to invest in their future.
I feel a little sorry for the current player. The success levels of this England team over the past decade have raised expectations.
It was different in my era. I made 36 on my debut and was hailed as a new star. Over the next few Tests, I made contributions but played a few iffy shots, scoring nice 30s and 40s, like Vince. It took until my 11th Test to score my first hundred. But now the players are expected to score centuries early on and take to international cricket quickly.
But, despite the Lions experience and time in county cricket, it is still a major step up and we sometimes forget we need to give players time.
In the second innings of this match, Hales and Vince have looked like Test cricketers. They were more disciplined and stuck to an attritional game plan. They proved they could bat for a period of time. In Test cricket you need the ability to bat five to seven hours and you only do that by playing low-risk, efficient cricket shots. Both had the awareness to do that but the lesson is one mistake makes it all for nothing.
I like the way both have made technical changes. Hales is trying to move his feet more, play straight and get behind the ball so he is not defending on the back foot with half of the bat face.
Vince has copied Joe Root by moving over to off stump to the left-arm-over bowler so he is playing more with a full face of the bat. It is helping him to locate his off stump.
Gary Ballance has also played beautifully under pressure. He has his method and he looks determined. It has helped him that Wahab Riaz is not playing because his extra pace was the concern. But Gary has reverted to his old self. He has been hard to get out, played the cut shot, flick off the hip and off-side punch and not tried to be someone he is not.
I like the way the three of them are thinking and, in Hales and Vince’s case, changing things. Ultimately there is nobody else crying out to be picked. Youngsters like Ben Duckett, Joe Clarke, and Daniel Bell-Drummond have done well, but it is not England’s way to pick batsmen early. They like to see them over a few years in county cricket and develop mentality in the Lions system. They want to know their character inside out before they pick them. So that gives Hales, Vince and Ballance time.
Generally I have been impressed with England this week and they showed huge character to fight back after two poor days.
But there are areas of concern. A few years ago Alastair Cook was struggling technically. His right foot was getting too far over to the off stump. He was playing across his front pad and jabbing at balls not knowing where his off stump was.
But he just went away and worked it out on his own. Now he is back to being the opener who plays straight, leaves well outside off stump, waits for the clip off the legs or punch down the ground.
Stuart Broad can learn from the way Cook ironed out his technical glitch. Broad is wonderful bowler. I have a lot of admiration for him. I like the fact that at the moment he is taking wickets despite not bowling very well.
He is getting three-fers without threatening to go on one of his wonderful spells. We say batsmen score ‘ugly runs’ when out of form. Well, Broad is taking ‘ugly wickets’ at the moment.
But he can take a leaf out of the captain’s book and admit he has a slight problem. His seam position is not where it should be. After this series he should go away and work on it. He is not in the one-day side so he has plenty of time and know how to work it out and get back to being the Broad we saw last year on a more regular basis.
He is a better bowler and a more destructive one than we have seen this season. He just needs to be honest with himself. At the moment he is not quite right because his fingers are not behind the seam on the point of release. It means he is reluctant to pitch it up because he will be driven easily.
Last summer his fingers and wrist were in the right position and he was bowling it away and bringing it back in. When he is at his best he has a strong position on the crease which allows him to hit the pitch hard and the ball either goes in or out. But his wrist position now means the ball only shapes in, so is more predictable.
As a top player, like Cook, he can work it out. It is only temporary but it is not time to be stubborn.