England's test of endurance bodes well for Indian winter

This is how England can compete - perhaps even win - in India.

England aren't going to win if they attempt to go the traditional route. They aren't going to win if they rely on their spinners to take 20 wickets or if they expect suddenly to develop another match-winning slow bowler at the last minute. The days when England could call on the likes of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann are gone. Hoping to recreate the success of 2012 without changing the formula will surely end in failure.

But they might, just might, win if they can field a balanced attack of four seamers and two or three spinners. And they might, just might, win if their seamers can gain reverse swing and operate in the sort of sharp spells that allow them to remain fresh and potent as they did against Pakistan at Edgbaston. And their spinners could well prove more successful if the captain has the scope to use them in shorter spells and withdrew them as necessary.

An India supporter glancing at the scorecard from Edgbaston might note that seamers claimed eight of the wickets in the fourth innings and presume this was a typical English pitch. Green, bouncy and seaming.

But it was far from it. It was sluggish and low; flat and slow. It was, after the first day, a heartbreaker for a bowler. It wouldn't quite be accurate to describe it as Asian in style, but there were as many characteristics of archetypal Asian surfaces as those usually found in England.

The key, on the last day, was England's ability to gain reverse swing. It wasn't lavish and it wasn't for long, but it was enough to unlock this decent Pakistan batting line-up on a flat surface. The ball only swung for an hour or so but, in that time, England's seamers broke through the Pakistan resistance. The ease with which the tenth-wicket pair then added 50 demonstrates how comfortable batting became once the ball stopped swinging, but while it did, England's seamers were deadly. We have come a long way since England reacted with such suspicion to Pakistan's bowlers cutting through them with the same skills.

England's greatest strength, though, is the presence of so many international class allrounders within their squad. Here, with Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali in the side, England were able to operate a four-man seam attack which ensured the bowlers could deliver much shorter spells than in the past. This helps maintain pressure on the batsman and means that there is nearly always someone to turn to for a fresh, fast spell. The days when James Anderson was regularly forced into seven- or eight-over spells are gone. The burden is more evenly spread and England - and Anderson - are better for it.

In India (and Bangladesh, if that tour goes ahead) England must field all three of their proven allrounders - Woakes, Ben Stokes and Moeen - and allow themselves the chance to play up to four seamers searching for reverse swing, and either two or three spinners.

We know that the second spinner will be Adil Rashid. But the third? While England could go for a specialist - the likes of Simon Kerrigan or Gareth Batty (Panesar, with a bowling average of 85 in Division Two of this season's Championship, is not a realistic option) - recent history suggests they may opt for another allrounder and probably one who spins the ball away from the right-hander. There will be consideration given to the improving Liam Dawson, but he has just four Championship wickets at a cost in excess of 100 apiece this season, and Samit Patel (who has 19 wickets at 34.15). But it looks as though Zafar Ansari (with 21 Championship wickets at 28.38) is most likely to be considered as he could probably also compete for a place in the top five of the batting line-up.

Either way, we saw a glimpse of the formula England will have to use in India at Edgbaston. And it is one that sees England play to their strengths, rely on the skill of their seamers and their depth, with bat and ball, provided by their allrounders.

There is a major caveat to all this. Even if England can create 20 chances against India in India and even if their close fielders can accept every chance that comes their way, England will still have to bat well on surfaces that could turn sharply.

This is clearly a concern. But they have shown, albeit on surfaces offering little assistance to spin, that they are learning. Since the end of the Lord's Test, Moeen has taken seven wickets at a cost of 259 runs, while Yasir Shah has four for 502. It will be harder on Indian wickets, but that's a statistic that bodes well.

There were many heroes for England in Birmingham. There was Jonny Bairstow, who selflessly sacrificed his own chances of a century for the good of the team and took perhaps his finest catch yet. There was Moeen Ali, who in the second innings equalled Dennis Amiss's record for the top score at an Edgbaston Test by an England player who had played (present or past) for Warwickshire, and gained beautiful drift when he bowled.

There was Steven Finn, who bowled with hostility on a pitch offering him nothing. There was Alex Hales, who helped his captain knock off the deficit on the third evening, and Stuart Broad, who bowled a super, unrewarded spell on the final day. It was probably no coincidence that Moeen, who was named Man of the Match in his first Test on his home-city ground, produced what he termed his "best bowling performance in a long time" after an improved display with the bat.

And, most of all, there was Alastair Cook, who continues to grow as a leader. It was Cook who decided that Anderson might like to apologise to the umpires and face the media after his tantrums on day two - a decision that probably saved Anderson a fine or a suspension - and Cook who juggled his bowlers so well that it might have gone overlooked that three of them (Broad, Moeen and Finn) came into this game low on form and confidence. It was Cook who timed his declaration nicely and it was Cook who led the second-innings fightback with the bat when England made light of a significant first-innings deficit with an assured opening stand of 126 with Hales.

Rumours have circulated for some time that Cook might, at some stage, like to take a step back from the captaincy and enjoy a couple of years back in the ranks as a batsman. At one time, it was presumed that decision would be made in 2016. For that reason it is possible, just possible, that the Oval Test could be Cook's last as captain in England.

But this England team is just getting started. And Cook is just finding his feet as a leader. Whether they reach No. 1 or not in the coming weeks - and it will be partially a reflection of the inadequacy of the ranking system and the fact there is no stand-out side in world cricket at present - for that ranking to have real credibility, they have to win in India. With Cook at the helm and a team stacked with allrounders they have an outside chance of doing that. It would be madness to move on now.

It was interesting to note after the game that the England dressing room sent not for beer or champagne, but for lemonade. They know the time has not yet come for celebrating. They know they have work ahead of them. But they can approach it with confidence.