England enjoyed an excellent Test series in Sri Lanka, winning 3-0 to continue their recent momentum under captain Joe Root.
Like the one-day side before them they now appear to be developing a strong, exciting and enjoyable brand of cricket. With eight wins from their last 10 Test matches they are clearly going in the right direction.
As well as they played, I don’t think we should get too carried away with the result because Sri Lanka clearly aren’t the team they used to be.
To his credit Root has said England want to keep improving and having moved past South Africa to No2 in the Test world rankings they now have the India’s No1 position in their sights.
I played in the last England side to reach top spot between August 2011 and August 2012 and there are some areas of weakness they need to address to get there again.
The most obvious problem England have is their top order. If you are going to be the best Test team in the world you need solidity and that is clearly not the case.
In my era we had a solid partnership in Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook followed by a settled middle order which meant collapses were rarities.
For now questions remain over Keaton Jennings, despite his unbeaten 146 in Galle, while Rory Burns needs time to settle in having made his debut.
Jonny Bairstow became the latest to bat at No3, scoring an emotional 110 in Colombo. There’s no reason why Bairstow can’t make the No3 position his own – he has the ability – but if he falls to the new ball too many times then national selector Ed Smith will need to go back to county cricket for a specialist.
Ben Foakes has nailed down the wicket-keeping position in my opinion so Bairstow needs to keep scoring runs and wait for his turn with the gloves.
Trevor Bayliss has said the battle for places is a strength and he’s right. Strong sides need at least 13 players vying for selection at all times.
My breakthrough in the 2010-11 Ashes came when Stuart Broad got injured, and when I then suffered a setback Tim Bresnan filled my shoes. It’s a healthy position to be in.
With Broad 32 and James Anderson 36 that squad dynamic, and rotation where possible, will be key in squeezing the most out of England’s two most successful bowlers.
It should also give opportunities to blood young players. Olly Stone was close to making his debut in Colombo and I think his pace can offer something different on dry, slower pitches.
England kept their foot on the gas to clinch the series whitewash and that’s a good sign. When we were No1 we didn’t see any games as dead rubbers – it’s all about amassing points.
The best sides in the world are incredibly strong at home, which makes away wins even more valuable.
England now have an excellent opportunity against a mixed West Indies side in January to continue their trajectory towards the top.