George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
Moeen Ali thanked the England selectors and team management after leading the fightback on the first day at The Oval.
Moeen, who caressed his second century of the summer to help England rebuild from a perilous position of 110 for 5, admitted there have been times he would have dropped himself in recent months and described some recent performances - not least his second innings dismissal in the first Test of the series at Lord's when he skipped down the wicket to Yasir Shah and missed a leg-break - as "embarrassing."
But he credited the faith and consistency of the selectors for the increased confidence of the side in all formats and for his own improved performances.
"I probably wouldn't have picked myself at one stage," Moeen said. "I was embarrassed after Lord's. But they stuck with me. That's the good thing about this side: they stick with players and you see the results. I've got to thank the selectors and Alastair Cook. I probably wouldn't have picked myself at one stage. It was 50:50.
"Sometimes guys just need a bit of experience. Each game, you get a bit better. It's a bit like my first-class career: when I first came in, I only averaged 20-something. I got the odd 100 but struggled a bit. But after a while, you get used to it and you get better."
It has been noticeable that Moeen's form with the bat has improved since injury to Ben Stokes precipitated his promotion back to No. 7 in the order. While he averages 14 as an opener (from six innings), 28.06 (from 19 innings) at No. 8 and 21 (from 11 innings) at No. 6 (he has not batted at No. 3, 4 or 5 at Test level), he now averages 97.16 (from nine innings) when batting at No. 7. All three of his Test centuries have come in the position.
While he concedes he has to find a way to cope with the mental shift in coming in as low as No. 8, he also makes no secret of the fact that he finds the No. 7 position more comfortable. To a man who grew-up as a batsman, who used to take pride in selling his wicket dearly and learned to build an innings, coming in with the tail and often feeling the need to slog a quick 20 or 30 never sat easily.
"Being pushed up that one spot up gave me a boost," Moeen said. "I feel like I can go out and play like a batsman. If I go down to No. 8, I've got to do that as well. After Lord's I told myself that, even if I was batting at 8, I would go out like I was batting No. 3 for Worcestershire.
"I was really embarrassed with my shot at Lord's. I decided I had to bat properly again now. I was sick and tired of not scoring runs for England."
You could argue that we saw both sides of the continuity of selection debate here. While Moeen vindicated the selectors' faith with a century, James Vince failed again. It is increasingly hard to avoid the conclusion that the faith shown in him will not, for now at least, be rewarded.
Neither selection was necessarily right or wrong. Had Moeen been caught in the slips on 9, as he should have been, England would have been in deep trouble and the decision to persist with him over Adil Rashid might have been questioned once more. Vince, meanwhile, was unfortunate enough to receive a fine delivery that demanded a stroke, lifted and left him. He was the only man in the top four with no reason to rebuke himself for his dismissal.
Vince may reflect, however, on the harsh nature of international cricket. Deliveries like this will come along from time to time, so it is essential that, once he has established himself at the crease - and he has reached 35 on four occasions in Tests this summer - he takes advantage. In years to come, he may well regret not capitalising on those starts more than the three single figure scores he has suffered.
He was unfortunate here, for sure, but this was his sixth dismissal to an edge to the cordon and his tenth dismissal in Test cricket without registering a half-century. You can't keep putting these things down to chance.
It all means that England may well end the summer (they are likely to have one more innings) with no better idea of their best middle-order than they had at the start. With perhaps only the No. 4 spot up for grabs in Asia - it looks at present as if Jonny Bairstow will bat at No. 5, with Ben Stokes at No. 6, Moeen at No. 7, Chris Woakes at No. 8, Adil Rashid at No. 9 and Stuart Broad and James Anderson at No. 10 and 11 respectively, Gary Ballance, who has not made an irrefutable case for his own retention, may find himself competing with an all-rounder who can act as the third spinner - perhaps Zafar Ansari or Samit Patel - for the final spot in the side.
Australia's seamers may have noted, too, that Moeen took a ferocious blow to the head from a Wahab Riaz bouncer first ball. While his phlegmatic response to the incident was impressive - little seems to ruffle Moeen - the likes of Mitchell Starc will have noted that the technical issues that have, in the past, rendered Moeen vulnerable to the short ball remain. With an Ashes tour little more than a year away, such moments will have been stored in Australia for future reference.
With Moeen stroking his way to a century he rated as the best of his career to date - the standing ovation he received on bringing up his century with a six suggested spectators at The Oval agreed - and England finishing with a total only 50 or so under par, the England management could fool themselves into concluding that all is well with this team.
They will know, though, that had Wahab not over-stepped and had the Pakistan slip cordon been better, England could well have been dismissed for a total of around 180. Whether they reach the No 1 ranking or not in the coming weeks, they know that holes need to be filled. The depth of the batting keeps masking flaws but, against the best sides - and we may not look back on this as one of the stronger ages of Test cricket - the chances will be taken and England will not be allowed to escape.
Moeen remains a man on trial. His role as England's first choice spin bowler - a position that he held by a thread ahead of the Old Trafford Test - remains debatable and he may well have an important part to play in this match. While his bowling performances this series may have been underwhelming (he averages 67.57 with this bat this summer and 71 this series), his bowling returns since Lord's have actually been noticeable better than Yasir Shah's.
Yasir has claimed four wickets for 562 runs since his 10-wicket haul at Lord's - that's a bowling average of 140.50 in the last two-and-a-half Tests - while Moeen has taken seven wickets at a cost of 37 apiece. These pitches have offered little to either man.
Still, whatever happens with the ball, the depth of England's batting line-up continues to save them. Moeen, Bairstow - who may well finish the year having broken Andy Flower's record aggregate of Test runs in a year (he made 1,045 in 2000; Bairstow now has 911 with seven-and-a-half Test left to play) from a wicketkeeper - Stokes, Woakes et al. continue to exhaust bowlers and punish the mistakes of fielders. Not for the first time, Pakistan's four-man attack was exposed by the England lower-order at The Oval. That depth may well prove to have been the difference between the sides.