George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
They may have a poor record at the start of a series, but Joe Root believes England have a "head start" before their first game against Pakistan.
England have, infamously, lost the first Test in eight of their 10 most recent series (excluding the one-off match against Ireland), including the last five. And while they have gone on to win their last two series despite such setbacks, they know that they cannot afford to put themselves at such a disadvantage against a side they have not beaten, home or away, since 2010.
The difference on this occasion is that, having just won a three-match series against West Indies, England should, in Root's words, be "up to speed" with the pace and demands of Test cricket. Furthermore, two of those games - the two England won - against West Indies were played at the same Emirates Old Trafford where the first Test against Pakistan will take place, allowing England to familiarise themselves with the pitch. And, with England utilising the depth of their seam-bowling resources to ensure none of their fast bowlers were obliged to play in more than two matches, they should be both in rhythm but fresh enough to hit the ground running.
"Having played some competitive Test cricket will serve us well," Root said. "It will give us a bit of a head start.
"Fortunately, we have three games under our belt coming into this. We played some really good cricket in the last two so the guys are up to speed. We are familiar with the rhythm of Test cricket too, so there is no excuse going into this week. Having good success on this ground in two Test matches will fill our group with a huge amount of confidence.
"We are playing some very good cricket at the minute; as well as we have done for a while. We are used to playing in this environment, having had three games under our belt now, and feel we are starting to emulate our game-plan more consistently. The challenge for us will continue to keep trying to nail that as much as possible and becoming more consistent."
Pakistan, by contrast, have not played a Test since February. They'd had one first-class game on the tour, but it was an intra-squad encounter which was curtailed by rain and did not see any batsman reach fifty. They also lost their previous Test in Manchester, in 2016, by 330 runs.
Root, however, is aware of Pakistan's fine overall record - they drew their last two series in England - and is adamant his side should not exhibit any complacency.
"It's really important we don't take it for granted," Root said. "We are very aware Pakistan are a talented team and very up for this series.
"We are all very aware that, in previous series, we have not got off to the best starts and we have been one-nil down, so the focus this time is trying to get a win early on and trying to drive the series from there.
"It always feels like hard work when you are behind in the series. We want to make sure we start well this time around. We are very aware of it."
England's other advantage is the depth of their seam-bowling resources. In another era, the likes of Craig Overton and Ollie Robinson might well have been opening the bowling in Test cricket. Right now, however, neither can command a place in the squad and there will, at some stage in the series, be some more high-profile omissions.
Continuing doubts over Ben Stokes' ability to bowl may lead England to stick with the same four-man pace attack they utilised in the final Test against West Indies, although there may also be questions over the inclusion of the spinner Dom Bess ahead of the batsman Zak Crawley. Bess played ahead of Crawley in that game, but did not bowl a ball in either innings. Crawley's omission also meant Root had to bat at No. 3 - a position he had made clear he would rather avoid, even though he scored a double-century from there against Pakistan in 2016 - and left Jos Buttler at No. 6 and Chris Woakes at No. 7.
Either way, the only man whose inclusion Root would guarantee was Stuart Broad, who claimed 10 for 67 in the previous Test. But he did also suggest at least one of Jofra Archer or Mark Wood would play to ensure the England attack had a pace option.
"Stuart will play tomorrow," Root said. "Will a fast bowler be included? I think so. We want that balance of attack. It's something we've looked at in the past. Long-term we're looking at wanting that extra pace and variation. We feel around the world that gives us a lot better chance of taking 20 wickets consistently."
While Root acknowledged he faced a "really tough call" over the last bowling space, with Woakes, Archer, Anderson and Wood contesting two or three positions, he suggested it was an encouraging reflection of England's overall depth.
"It's a really tough call," Root said. "But if we're going to become the No. 1 side in the world we're going to have to have a battery of fast bowlers who can come in and perform. Especially if we are going to play back-to-back Test matches in the series.
"It's important we have options and can rotate if guys are sore or stiff. For the longevity of this team it's important we look after our fast bowlers and make smart decisions at the right time, and we'll get judged on results. It's tough but good tough."