NASSER HUSSAIN: England should savour this thrilling summer after South Africa series win but ‘Bazball’ will have to evolve to prosper in the very different conditions of Pakistan this winter
- England wrapped up a 2-1 series victory over South Africa on Monday morning
- Stylish approach championed by Stokes and McCullum has worked well
- But many questions remain unanswered ahead of winter tour to Pakistan
- Extra pace will be required to get anything from the flat pitches over there
- Can Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid be tempted back as extra spin options?
- Doubts remain over openers Alex Lees and Zak Crawley despite late flourish
England must enjoy the remarkable turnaround that has not only seen them win six out of seven this summer but do it with a style and enjoyment that has made people fall in love with Test cricket again.
Sky’s viewing figures went through the roof on Sunday as England closed in on victory in the final Test and this LV = Insurance series and those figures have been very healthy all summer.
But even though England have been right to focus on the Test in front of them and let the future take care of itself, now is the time to move away from short-term gains and think about their approach overseas.
Led by Ben Stokes, England claimed another series victory as they overcame South Africa
The win at The Oval capped a great summer in which England have won six Tests out of seven
Winning at home against a weak South Africa batting line-up that only made three 50s in the series is one thing but Rob Key will be thinking now ‘how can we win in Pakistan in completely different conditions and with a different ball.’
The pitches for the three Tests before Christmas will be flat and England must think carefully about going there with an attack similar to the one that has been so successful this summer – three medium-fast right arm bowlers in Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson and an all-rounder of a captain in Ben Stokes bowling on one leg.
Who will give England the extra pace they will need in Pakistan? Will it be Mark Wood? Where is Saqib Mahmood with his fitness because he could provide the reverse swing I had as captain when we won in Pakistan through Darren Gough and Craig White.
England will need extra pace on the flat Pakistan pitches – could Saqib Mahmood be recalled?
Could spinners Moeen Ali (left) and Adil Rashid be persuaded to return to the Test arena?
Who will be their second spinner to accompany Jack Leach because they will almost certainly be needed in Pakistan. Are Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid up for going or are they truly done with Test cricket? And if not them then who?
Are England still happy with an opening partnership of Zak Crawley and Alex Lees? Yes they got runs right at the end here at the Oval as England won the third Test by nine wickets but is there enough potential and growth in their partnership?
We do have to appreciate how tough it has been batting at the top of the order in England in recent years. You only have to look at how tough someone as good as Dean Elgar has found it this summer to know batters have to be given some leeway.
But England will ask themselves if they can do better and it would appear they are very keen on Ben Duckett, called up as cover here when Jonny Bairstow was injured.
Zak Crawley (left) and Alex Lees still throw up more questions than answers as an opening pair
Ben Duckett was called into the England squad as cover for the third Test at The Oval
There are also others they will consider like Dan Lawrence and Harry Brook, who made his debut here and could move up to the top of the order.
It may have looked as though England were very loathe to make changes this summer and were very loyal to the players they picked but they must always be looking to improve and not take this immediate success in home conditions for granted.
For instance Matt Potts had been doing very well on his introduction to Test cricket but at the moment Robinson is a better bowler and England have been proved absolutely right in bringing him in at Old Trafford once they were satisfied he was fit.
That planning will come soon enough. For now England and their new captain in Stokes, coach in Brendon McCullum and managing director in Key can congratulate themselves on a job very well done.