Match Analysis

Vince's style may mask a lack of substance

James Vince has had eight innings in which to convert his elegance into output. But he is still making the same unnerving mistakes.

It's not hard to see how James Vince's batting could seduce you.
If you were to walk past a net session in which he was batting, you could not help but be impressed. The sweetness of the timing and the range of his shots would set him apart from most. At times, he makes batting look beautiful.
You would never say that about Alastair Cook or Gary Ballance. If you were to walk past them in the nets, you could be forgiven for concluding that they are far more limited players. With their reluctance to drive, their determination not to be drawn into high-risk strokes and their emphasis on crease occupation and accumulation, you might conclude they were not in Vince's class.
But not everything we like the look of is good for us. While Vince puts away the poor ball with pleasing style, he is now eight innings into his Test career and has yet to register a half-century. And while Cook and Ballance may not be the prettiest batsmen, they have developed a method that works for them and understand that batting is just as much about patience as it is about hand-eye coordination. There are no extra runs for artistic impression in Test cricket. Vince's continued selection is a victory for style over substance.
His dismissal here exposed a familiar fault. Unsure whether to play or leave a delivery just outside off stump, he ended up doing a bit of both and a lot of neither. It was a decent ball, for sure, but it was the sort of ball that Test players will receive often. If he is to sustain a career at this level, it is the sort of delivery he needs to be able to handle.
Vince could have been out several times before that. Early in his innings he flicked one from Rahat Ali through midwicket. The crowd applauded and the ball whistled to the boundary, but it was an unnecessarily high-risk stroke. Instead of playing the ball on the ground, Vince had flicked it up and over the midwicket fielder. Next delivery, Rahat angled one across him and Vince flashed at it. He made no contact, but it was a familiar error.
And that's the problem. For, six Tests into his career, he does not appear to be learning quickly enough to justify extending his stay in the side. He has not learned that batting, at Test level at least, is as much about denial as flair, as much about the balls you don't play as those you do, as much about discipline as it is about dashing.
Six Tests into his career, he has done nothing to refute the suggestion that he is an unusually elegant destroyer of mediocre bowling, but that he lacks the defensive technique to cope with more demanding attacks. That difference between his batting average in each division of the County Championship - about 50 in the second division and about 30 in the first - remains telling.
There is another telling statistic that speaks volumes for Vince's approach. While he has scored 69 percent of his Test runs in boundaries (admittedly in a small sample size), England's two best batsmen, Alastair Cook and Joe Root, have both scored 47 percent of their Test runs from fours and sixes.
This suggests that, while Root and Cook are prepared to wait for the poor ball to punish, Vince goes looking for it. It suggests, too, that while Root has the all-round game required to score freely without taking undue risk, Vince is over-reliant upon the 'big shot' to keep the scoreboard moving. It suggests he is lacking in temperament or technique. That those flashing drives are as much a weakness as they are a strength.
Ballance provided an example for Vince to follow on the first day at Edgbaston. While there is sometimes little that is pretty about his batting - to be fair, he played some lovely strokes here - he knows his game, he understands his limitations and he has the patience to wait for the poor ball before launching into an aggressive stroke. It is, in short, substance over style.
He has not changed his technique much. Despite a mountain of criticism towards the end of his first run in the side, he stuck with his method - he admits he attempted to change but felt less comfortable at the crease and scored fewer runs - and resolved to execute it better. It would be premature to suggest that this, his highest Test score since April 2015, cements his place in the side, but it was a significant step in that direction.
Whether his contribution helped England to a competitive total is debatable. While Ballance suggested England thought 300 was "around par", pitches at Edgbaston tend to be at their best for batsmen on day two and three. When England reflect on their dismissals, they may conclude that several of their batsmen were the architects of their own downfall - none more so than Root, who pushed at one that left him, and Jonny Bairstow, who wafted away from his body - and that Pakistan have been given an opportunity to take advantage.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo