Almost three years ago, Tom Westley was standing round the back of the pavilion at Chelmsford, wiping the sweat from his brow after Essex had completed their final match of the season and talking softly, almost hesitantly, about his "ultimate goal" of playing for England. Westley had been selected - for the first time at the age of 25 - for the England Performance Programme, on the back of his impressive white-ball form that summer.
That winter, he went to Sri Lanka, playing a few games for the Bloomfield club in Colombo while also working on his spin bowling; the following summer saw his best first-class return, 926 runs at 44.09, followed by an even more prolific season in 2016, when he averaged more than 50 and broke the 1000-run barrier for the first time. Now, at 28, he is England's incumbent at No. 3 in the Test side.
All of which is to say that Westley has worked long and hard to get to where he wants to be - he made his first-class debut for Essex more than a decade ago - and is intent on enjoying the experience. Called up for the Oval Test against South Africa, after Gary Ballance suffered a broken finger, he became only the second England debutant to score a fifty batting at No. 3 this century and, despite failing to match that contribution since, has so far featured in three consecutive Test victories.
Westley is already getting used to the extra attention that comes with being an England cricketer - at least from the media, if not the general public, as a trip into Birmingham last week with Alastair Cook brought home. When an England fan stopped and asked for a selfie with Cook, Westley was not required. "The guy was like 'no, no, it's just his mate'. So I was just stood there."
Opposition analysts, you can be certain, will not make the same oversight, focusing on his strong leg-side game and a habit of occasionally letting his bottom hand take over, closing the bat face when he drives down the ground. Having spent many years forging a technique he trusts to bring him runs, Westley is not about to start making changes now and his conversations with those who know his batting best - including the gnomic Gnome of Essex cricket, and former England captain, Keith Fletcher - have centred on sticking to what works.
"I score consistently through the leg side so that's not something I'm too concerned about," Westley says. "That's the way I play. But I just thinking making that step up, and Cooky and Rooty showed it in the last game, that's when you get in you have to make it count. I've got a start in a few of my innings and that's the difference between county cricket, where you can get to 30 or 60 and hope a score comes along, but in Test cricket the scrutiny is on you because you have to go on there and then.
"It's my role to score hundreds. That's what I'm there to do at three and make match-winning contributions but I'm confident in my ability and my game plan. It's worked for me for a number of years at Essex and hopefully I can implement it at Test level.
"I spoke to Fletch yesterday. I speak to him a lot. It's the same advice. Keep it simple. Try to implement what you've done at Essex. I spoke to him briefly yesterday about a few things I try to tick off. I've done it from a young age. For instance a big thing for me is my balance so I was disappointed to be lbw in the last game because the leg side is a massive strength of mine and it was disappointing to get out that way. I may get out lb several times a year but generally I score a large volume of runs through the leg side. Everybody has their check list before a Test and a big thing for me is my balance. Then everything takes care of itself."
Westley's dismissal at Edgbaston, trapped in front for 8 by Miguel Cummins, saw his opportunity extinguished before the pink ball had lost its first blush - and such was the scale of their dominance, England did not need to bat again. While he could have been forgiven for stewing in the dressing room while Cook and Joe Root each proceeded serenely to three figures during a stand of 248, Westley has been around long enough not to let such frustrations bite too deeply.
"Some would say I missed the boat, but I just looked at it as them laying a platform for England to win which is the most important thing," he says. "Maybe when you're a bit younger, 19 or 20, you look sideways at what other people are doing and you wish you are scoring those runs, but I'm a bit older than that, although I don't look it, and I just enjoy other people's success.
"I've seen it first hand with other people at Essex and with Cooky, there is not point competing with him, he is the leading run-scorer for England of all time, so it was more important that they laid a platform for England to win and that is what happened. If I play this next game and get a good start and kick on then my time will come as it will for other players in the changing room. That is my philosophy."
England will hope that he does kick on at some point over the next two Tests, with an Ashes series looming and questions hovering over the make-up of the top three. Having shown an impressive temperament in coming through his first test, against South Africa, Westley knows that a big innings is required to prove his belongs - never mind the quality of the opposition.
"As far as I'm concerned runs are runs regardless of who they're against. I know that the West Indies didn't cover themselves in glory in the last Test but they are a very talented side. They've got some good bowlers, I know Shannon Gabriel didn't play the last game, but they've got Kemar Roach and bowlers who have performed consistently in Test cricket.
"For me, I just want to score runs for whoever I play for and for England against whoever. I think there is nothing else I can do. These are the Tests that are here in England at the moment so if I can score runs in them then it is only going to help."
So level-headed and thoughtful is Westley, that it is a surprise to hear that he recently made his mum cry. But then it is also a bit of surprise to hear university-educated Westley talk about his builder dad: "very vocal, covered in tattoos, very different to me.". Should Tom ensure himself a place in England's party for Australia, it will be a source of great pride for the whole family (he also has two sisters).
"I spoke to my mum on the phone last night about hopefully getting selected for the third Test of this series at Lord's and she just started crying, she couldn't speak back to me. Growing up that's what she envisaged for me as her son: playing at Lord's. I can't even bring up the Ashes to her. I was actually shocked on the phone because she couldn't speak back to me, and I was like 'signal gone?'
"It was surprising to hear her well up. We were talking about tickets for Lord's if I was selected and she couldn't get a word in. I think getting selected on the Ashes would be times that by 10."
Before Australia, before Lord's, even, comes the Headingley Test and the next stage on Westley's journey. If he does well, he won't be doing his interviews round the back of the pavilion; if he doesn't, it seems fair to assume he will mop his brow and get his head down once again.
"I don't want to put too much pressure on myself because there is pressure as you'd expect playing for England," he says. "I play cricket because I love playing cricket and the team, management and changing room has been unbelievable these last three games. I know there is a pressure to score runs but fundamentally I want to enjoy playing cricket for England, which I have, and hopefully in time the runs will follow."
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