England top-order do not give innings any security
England talk a good game but too often fail to back it up with a batting performance when under pressure. So many of the England players say how wonderfully enjoyable it is in the dressing room these days. They play positively and without fear but the fact is they are still a flaky batting unit.
Until they bat better it does not matter how good the bowlers are, particularly the seamers, they will always be suspect.
The opposition will look at England's batting line-up and think 'if we dismiss Alastair Cook and Joe Root cheaply the rest will not cause us too much trouble because they will get themselves out'.
Too much is expected of England's late and middle order. They constantly have to get the top-order out of jail. As a collec- tive, the top five do not give the innings any security. When you have Chris Woakes batting at eight and showing more application, discipline and composure than some of the top batsmen in the team, you have to ask yourself what is going on?
He picked the length and variation of the wrist spinner, Yasir Shah, as well, if not better, than all his other colleagues.
Jonny Bairstow and Woakes played fantastic. But by the time they got together they had too much to do. Why didn't the other batsmen show the same patience and application in the first innings. Why wait until the team is in a hole and made a mess of batting in the first innings before playing properly?
The game was nearly lost by then. England should take note of the way Bairstow and Woakes batted against Shah. Stay in, defend well and make him bowl lots of overs so you tire him out. England need a better plan than just trying to play shots to knock him off his length. You rarely come across an opposition that has three left-arm seamers slanting the ball across the right-hand batsman.
But England have had time to think about this, work on it in the nets and understand what areas are safe to score in and what shots are naive.
Alex Hales plays cracking good shots but cannot resist having a dart at wide balls. His footwork is missing and it cost him his wicket again. He is not the finished article yet.