Shan Masood doesn't like to think about the past, and on an England tour, you can see why.
Four years ago, he was drafted into the Pakistan side as opener, and there was reason for cautious optimism. His career may only have been five Test matches old, all of them confined to the subcontinent, but he wasn't the complete novice to English conditions that that might suggest. Educated at Durham University, he had spent more time honing his cricket education than his academic one, playing under Graeme Fowler's tutelage before joining a distance-learning programme as cricket began to take precedence.
It will, then, have been a particularly dispiriting blow to have that inaugural tour of England cut short after two Test matches, as he fell to his bete noire James Anderson in each innings, for a sum of just 71 runs. While flickers of a solid technique unique to a cricketing education in England were unmistakable, it wasn't enough for Pakistan's famously twitchy selectors to keep the faith. He was cast aside for Sami Aslam, and it would almost be a full year before he wore international colours again. If he had hoped England would be a launchpad, the reality suggested it was more of a missed approach.
What has distinguished Masood from several others in Pakistan cricket, however, is a work ethic even his most professional colleagues would struggle to match. It was a part of his DNA since well before international cricket seemed a viable career path; ever since he was 19, he would leave his parents' flat in St John's Wood, run to a Baker Street gym, make sure to come through Park Road to get a glimpse of Lord's every day.
Years later, when head coach Mickey Arthur instituted a rigorous fitness regime alien to Pakistan cricket at the time, Masood was always at or near the top of the fitness charts, often going well beyond the minimum standards Arthur had set. It is no secret Masood isn't the most talented batsman in this Pakistan side, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a hungrier one.
And in his quest to make the most of whatever ability he possesses, Masood went back to the domestic circuit, piling on the runs in both the white-ball format and the Quaid-e-Azam trophy. He made the most of a call-up for a first-class call-up against New Zealand in 2018, scoring 73 against New Zealand and then smashing 161 in a List A match against the England Lions.
He focused on tightening up his technique, picking the length early and playing the ball late, while trying to ensure he survived the first 20 balls or so of an innings, to give himself a chance of being out in the middle once set. He sought help from coaches, analysts, writers, and just about anyone else who had an opinion on a game he desperately wanted to make it in.
"Situationally you always have to look at the team," he said after reaching the close on the first day on 46 not out. "We always knew that the new ball is going to be a struggle. It's not an easy gig being an opening batsman in this country. But there comes an opportunity to give your team a good start, especially if you opt to bat first.
"I just thought it was very important to take the shine off the ball in the first hour and make it easier for the guys coming in," he added. "The ball did a bit off the seam in the first session but as the second session went on, we got into a bit of a scoring mode. But I think there's a long way to go, both as a team and as an individual, and you want to capitalise on any start you get. So hopefully, tomorrow, we can make this count."
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There have been bigger scores and more spectacular innings from Masood over the past two years, but today's may well be his most satisfying in terms of signifying quite how far he has come. He made sure to hang around early on while the ball - particularly Anderson's - moved around menacingly, and played at the ones he couldn't leave with soft hands to ensure edges didn't carry through to the slips.
He didn't mind not attacking a single ball all first session, so long as it meant he wasn't giving his wicket away cheaply. He didn't care that he'd scored just 9 off the 34 Chris Woakes balls he faced, what likely pleased him would be how well he had left him on length. He was unperturbed at the fact he'd scored a measly five runs off Dom Bess in 29 deliveries, even as Babar Azam milked him at a run a ball in 25. He was unflustered by potentially becoming the slowest Pakistani to a half-century in England; what matters more is he's become the first overseas opener since 2016 to survive more than 100 balls in England.
There was good fortune, of course; Bess was unlucky not to have had him twice, with Jos Buttler missing a catch and a stumping, the latter a rare ill-judged dance down the wicket on the stroke of stumps. But in a career like Masood's, fortune is a central character of the story rather than a mere support act.
Two years ago, he accompanied Pakistan on a trip to South Africa, where he was designated to be an understudy to Haris Sohail. On the morning of the first Test, Sohail's knee seized up, and Masood would get a first chance in 13 months. He would go on to become the leading runscorer for Pakistan in that series, finishing behind only Quinton de Kock. He has since averaged 47.85, second only to Azam in the Pakistan side. In that time, he has transformed into an automatic Test selection rather than a wayfaring afterthought.
No wonder, then, that Masood doesn't want to dwell upon his last tour of England. This isn't 2016, and it certainly isn't the same Shan Masood.