England’s batsmen would do well to carefully study film of Younis Khan’s 127 in the final Test against Pakistan as part of their preparations for the next series in Sri Lanka.
We need to be more positive against the spinners as part of our game plan if we are to quickly put the 3-0 whitewash in the UAE behind us and justify our position of the top Test side in the world.
That doesn’t mean simply trying to hit more boundaries. A method has to be found to work ones and twos to keep the scoreboard ticking and stop the bowlers settling into their preferred line and length.
Younis Khan is brilliant at doing exactly that. He never seems content to merely block a delivery, but is constantly using his hands to get the ball into the off-side and his feet to get across his stumps and work it into the on-side.
He makes liberal use of the sweep – a shot I feel England’s batsmen could use more often – and is not afraid to leave his crease and advance down the wicket. In fact, he is on the move most of the time.
I was really impressed with how he swept in Dubai. He keeps really low with his bat virtually horizontal when he gets to the pitch of a delivery and he has great wrists, which flick through the ball and keep on top of it.
When someone like him is constantly rotating the strike it makes batting look so easy. It is a mind-set more than anything to get into a rhythm of knocking the ball around, rather than concentrating solely on defence.
England negotiated six successive overs of dot balls in their second innings in Dubai before Jonathan Trott got out attempting a big shot. If you get that defensive in your mind as a batsman it is very difficult to suddenly dispatch even a bad ball.
We need to treat the three Tests just played as an education. That’s why, for me, Younis provided a template from which our batsmen can definitely learn.
I wouldn’t change much in terms of personnel for the Sri Lanka series. I would take the same squad and have a shoot-out between Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara for one place by playing both in the warm-up games and see who grasps the opportunity.
Ian Bell is not vulnerable in my view, even though he has had a really tough time in the UAE, because his past record speaks for itself. The problem he and Andrew Strauss have now is another period without cricket while the one-day series against Pakistan is fought out.
England have had an eye-opener. They now know that becoming the top team in the world is tough and staying there even tougher. But I believe the batsmen picked against Pakistan were the best we have and we must back them to emerge stronger and wiser.
I can’t end this column without a word about my Somerset team-mate Jos Buttler, who has rightly been chosen in England’s one-day international and T20 squads for the games against Pakistan after a fantastic Lions tour to Sri Lanka.
I’m thrilled by Jos’s selection because I can’t wait for a wider audience to see what a special talent he is. I have stood in awe watching some of his performances for our county.
When Craig Kieswetter, Peter Trego or myself get going we remain fairly orthodox in how we play. But when Jos starts hitting out he is so dynamic that his shots cover all 360 degrees of the playing area.
If I can help it, I don’t miss a ball when Jos is batting. I can think of no higher recommendation than to say that.