It seems hard to imagine now but, not so long ago, England used to be chastised if they won Tests too slowly.

During the summer of 2013, in particular, they attracted criticism for the manner in which they won the Ashes - a 3-0 victory, no less - and a 247-run win over New Zealand at Headingley. Their game, it was said, lacked aggression, style and entertainment value.

Well, it sure has all those now. You can barely take your eye off England when batting - they have lost 10 wickets in a session three times in two years - as they react to almost every challenge by trying to hit their way to safety. Ollie Pope, inexperienced and batting out of position, can probably be forgiven his second innings dismissal - ugly though it was - but Joe Root's back foot force was unworthy of such an experienced player.

So, as the team management use Thursday morning to pick a squad for the fourth Test, you wonder what they would give for a Geoff Boycott or Chris Tavare now. Players who would happily bat all day for 90. Players who could leave well, defend well and relished batting time.

Instead, as they look around the counties, they find a surplus of middle-order strokemakers. There's James Vince, who scored (another) century in the latest round of Championship matches, Moeen Ali, who did the same, and Joe Clarke, who is sixth in the Division One run table and has scored those runs at a strike-rate of 66.76. Not so long ago, that was considered respectable in ODI cricket.

But England don't need another middle-order strokemaker. They need a blocker. They need someone to dare to be dull. They need the batsman Alastair Cook used to be.

County cricket doesn't produce many blockers any more. There simply isn't any money in it. So a batsman like Jaik Mickleburgh, who scores centuries for fun in Minor Counties cricket, can't win a second chance in the first-class game because he is seen as a one-format player. Andrew Umeed, who made the second-slowest century (in terms of minutes) in Championship history last summer against an attack including James Anderson, hasn't been picked for a first-class game this year. Nick Compton has fallen out of favour to such an extent that it appears his career is over.

It is an absurd situation that sees Pope, who bats at No. 6 for Surrey, asked to bat No. 4 for England. Especially with such a fragile top-order above him. Pope had never come into bat before the 23rd over of a first-class innings before he made his Test debut. Now, in the three Test innings he has had, he has come to the crease in the nine over, the 12th over and the 13th over. It is unfair to expect a 20-year-old to cover for the flaws of those above him. Unfair and potentially damaging.

It could be that England have stumbled upon a partial solution. If, as expected, Jonny Bairstow is unable to keep wicket in Southampton due to his fractured finger, it is likely he will relinquish the gloves (not literally; they can afford a pair each) to Jos Buttler but retain his place in the side as a specialist batsman. He could then be pushed up to No. 4 and told to curb his natural aggression just a little. Pope would be able to slip down at least one place as a consequence and if Ben Stokes - who looked as if he had the best technique in the side at Trent Bridge - was also pushed up a place, Pope could revert to No. 6.

It's not a perfect solution. Bairstow has spent most of his career at Yorkshire batting at No. 5 and, with a propensity to push at the ball, remains better suited to a middle-order position. If anyone doubts how much easier batting can become, it's worth noting that, in the first, third and fourth innings of the Trent Bridge Test combined, only one wicket fell between the 31st and 70th overs for a combined total of 387 runs.

But the suspicion remains that Bairstow has not quite maximised his potential with the bat. He currently has a Test career average of 38.55, after all, and in the 25 innings he has played in the last year, he has reached 50 only four times. This summer he averages 31.75. The requirement to tighten his game and take more responsibility with the bat might just be the making of him.

It would help England's middle-order, too, if their top-order performed better. It seems there is little chance of Cook being jettisoned at this stage, but Keaton Jennings is at risk. Jennings is only four Tests into his recall but, having appeared unreliable in the field - he dropped two relatively straightforward chances at Trent Bridge - his frailties outside off stump have also been exposed by an India attack that is brilliant against left-handers.

His return of 123 runs in six innings gives him an average, since his return to the side, of just 20.50 and suggests he has been unable to improve the technical deficiencies that resulted in him being dropped a year ago. His career average - 23.16 from 10 Tests - is bolstered by that century on debut which saw him dropped before he was scored. Had it been taken, he would be averaging 16.94 in his Test career.

His recall looked hasty at the time. Following the decision to drop him last August, he went 20 first-class innings without reaching a half-century. He then made two centuries in successive innings - one of them a fine effort against a decent Nottinghamshire attack; the other on a very flat pitch against Somerset - and was immediately recalled. In retrospect, that looks premature.

But it's his catching that's the real worry. It hints at a scrambled mind and brittle confidence. And with Rory Burns continuing to score heavily - he has 104 more runs than the second-highest scorer in Division One this season - there is a viable alternative in decent form.

There are other options. Daryl Mitchell, the Worcestershire opener, is the third-highest run-scorer in Division One and a more than decent slip fielder. He is experienced, phlegmatic and right-handed. He would let nobody down. But it seems unlikely the selectors will look much beyond those involved in the Lions set-up. They might be reluctant to look to a 34-year-old, too.

Could Ian Bell be an option at No. 3? He could. He is 36 now but batting beautifully. It might be remembered, though, that Bell averaged 38.00 at No. 3 and 48.25 at No. 5 in Test cricket. He doesn't really answer the question England are asking right now.

It's not impossible there could be a new look to the spin attack, though. Jack Leach might have been considered the man in possession at the start of the summer but was unavailable for the Pakistan series due to injury and the start of this India series as it was believed he required more bowling to recover his rhythm. Having claimed 8 for 85 in Somerset's victory over Essex it seems safe to assume he has now done so.

Moeen is pushing hard, too. As well as the runs he is scoring - in the last week, he has followed a 51-ball century in the Blast with a Championship double-hundred against Yorkshire - he has also taken five-fors in his last two Championship matches. He was already in the squad and might be considered either as a replacement for Bairstow, if required, or a second spinner. It seems most unlikely the experiment of using him as an opener will be revisited.

But Adil Rashid - with seven wickets in the series at 26.71 - has done little wrong. So unless England feel they require cover for Cook (who may need to depart on paternity leave at some stage) or Bairstow (finger) the only tough decision may centre on whether Jennings should make way for Burns.