Pakistan's inconsistency in selection has seen them run through many players in the last few years, and openers have been a particular problem.
All the more reason to sit up and take notice, then, when 20-year-old Sami Aslam made a impactful debut, replacing Shan Masood in the opening slot at Edgbaston, scoring 82 and 70. It was possibly the only positive from the match for Pakistan, who lost by 141 runs.
Sami came up in cricket in the years when the international game had departed the country. He did not watch any of his cricket heroes live, nor did he see any major international side visit Pakistan. Still, cricket was a vital part of his life. He was one of the finds of the PCB's Hunt for Heroes tournament in 2009, where he was the fourth leading run getter, with 333 runs at 66.60. Since then he has made sure to remain in contention as he progressed up the levels. "You can follow my career from Under-16, my performances have been extraordinary," he says.
He was prolific at the U-19 level and is currently the second highest run scorer in U-19 ODI history with 1695 runs (and the most hundreds, six). He is also the third fastest in the world to get to 2000 List A runs. He was captain of the Pakistan U-19 side when they toured England in 2013, and made two centuries in the tri-series then, including 110 in the final against England, before catching the eye with another hundred in a victory over India in the 2013-14 U-19 Asia Cup.
Sami studied at one of the best schools in Lahore, Crescent Model School in Shadman, and then at the prestigious 152-year-old Government College University in downtown Lahore, where he studied general science, maths, statistics and economics. During his time at college, he made steps towards taking up cricket full time. "I didn't go beyond my intermediate degree because of cricket," he says, "but I have all the basic education, which makes me a better and confident person."
He started playing serious cricket at Punjab Cricket Club near Mozang, and spent four years there before moving to Ali Gharh Cricket Club in Model Town after his father had differences with the organisers at PCC.
Aslam Sr, who works for State Bank, has been a major driving force in Sami's cricket career, escorting him to grounds and generally being his biggest supporter. Sami's standout characteristics have been his solid temperament, a calmness remarkable in one so young, and the value he places on his wicket. He attributes them to his education, and the influence of his father as he grew up.
His ability to leave the ball caught attention at Edgbaston, and his judgement in picking the right ball to hit has been astute. Add focus and temperament to that and you have the makings of a fine opener.
"I am by nature very polite, and this calmness came from my education," Sami says. "My father has kept me protected. He ensured that I am not distracted, and he made sure I remained within the right company and with good friends around. He always kept an eye on my social circle, and probably that might have been annoying at some stage, but this eventually helped me."
His international debut wasn't quite in keeping with his feats at U-19 level. In his first two Tests, against Bangladesh last year, Sami made just 47 runs in three innings, though in his 31 first-class matches he has scored as many hundreds (six) as he has fifties, which indicates a hunger to convert starts.
"My debut last year in Bangladesh wasn't really a reflection of what I am as a player," he says. "I was unlucky in Khulna and later my morale was crushed badly when I was dropped. I was dropped without a sufficient opportunity and it really hurt. As a player, when you come up to the top level after years of hard work, you shouldn't be judged merely on the basis of one or two innings.
"I then returned to domestic cricket and scored ample runs, including a double-hundred in Lahore, to be in contention. So things have always been improving and this process never stopped. Opportunity eventually came back to me again, and we both knew why you are interviewing me - it's because I have done something big, which now everyone is acknowledging."
For this England tour, Sami was picked as a back-up opener. "I wasn't really sure if I would get a game," he says. "But I was mentally ready and kept my work ethics as if I was playing in the game, because I didn't want to be complacent.
"I remember we landed here in Hampshire on June 18 and since than I don't think I have missed any training. It was always important for me to be ready all the time, and I kept myself backing throughout. I was working with Grant Flower in the nets, knocking the ball, absorbing the conditions and understanding everything within the dressing room and how things work around at this level.
Pakistan have struggled to find an assured opener since Saeed Anwar - Mohammad Hafeez's 50 Test matches notwithstanding. The selectors have never quite managed to gather enough patience to allow any young batsman to settle into the role, but Sami believes he is here to stay, and thinks this tour is his breakthrough. "I feel I have a chance to chip in," he says.
His credentials for the position are strong. He notably has not had issues with discipline at the domestic level, and his progress from club cricket to date has been down to performance.
"I am not thinking very far from here and I don't think that I have proved anything yet," he says. "No, it's a long way to go but one thing what I have proved so far is that I have the skills to sustain at this level of cricket, regardless of the conditions. I have played a lot of cricket before making my way to Test cricket, and this England tour has actually helped me a lot to convince the selectors and fans in Pakistan - otherwise everyone is cynical about everything here. You really have got to give your heart, as there is no room for failure, because you never know if you will ever get a chance again.
"We grew up with a perception that if a player can score away from home, especially in England, Australia and South Africa, then he is recognised as an accomplished player. I won't say that I have achieved everything, because it's just one match. But one thing I feel proud about is that my base has been set. I will be a talking point as the guy who scored runs in England in his very first match, and this is what keeps you motivated. I have showcased my talent and everyone saw me batting. Probably I am the answer for every unanswered question for Pakistan's opening slot.
"I know after this everyone will start expecting a lot from me, and that will be another challenge because one failure and you are gone. People talk about inconsistency and we do have a culture of being inconsistent. This is only because there is always a fear of failure. Young players are not given ample opportunities to prove themselves. If you see [James] Vince as an example, he might have failed in the last 12, 13 innings, but still England are backing him and giving him a chance to get confidence. So this is the kind of support a young player needs and this will also allow us to play with freedom. So these innings I played were very important for my career to go ahead, and it was a perfect start."
Sami is the youngest in this Pakistan dressing room. He was shy about talking to anyone until Sarfraz Ahmed and later Asad Shafiq struck up a rapport with him. "Safi has been very supportive," he says. "Otherwise I had hardly anyone to talk to. I was nervous with Misbah and Younis Khan around - they are very senior players and I don't know how and what to talk with them. I found a really good friend in Asad Shafiq as well."
He says he has not had a cricket hero. "I actually never gave a thought about it - who to follow or take inspiration from. But there are few I want to follow their characteristics, like [Virat] Kohli's consistency. Consistency is a missing factor in the top order and I want to make sure that I will be consistent," he says.
"I enjoy watching Suresh Raina, but the players I want to follow are Virat Kohli and [Joe] Root. Why? Because they are consistent, they score in eight innings out of ten. That is the part missing from the Pakistan team. I want to be more consistent, and that is the main thing I feel I should be working on."