Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
Dan Lawrence heads off for the Ashes next month knowing that England's next generation of batters cannot retain their Test places on potential alone. However, he believes that a combination of Australia's run-laden wickets, and a year spent watching Joe Root's masterclasses at close quarters, can only augur well for his and his team-mates' chances of success.
In a stop-start first year in England's Test side, Lawrence's performances to date epitomise the issues in the team's junior ranks, with his three well-compiled half-centuries offset by four ducks and a current average of 27.23 that he concedes is "very frustrating". He has hardly been alone in underachieving, however. While Root has racked up six centuries in a formidable year, Rory Burns' hundred against New Zealand in June remains England's only other three-figure score in 12 Tests.
"It does get to a stage where we just need to score runs," Lawrence said during a #Funds4Runs event in Leyton. "That is your currency, and it gets to a stage where being inexperienced might not be an excuse that you can keep on using. We need to score runs, and if we do that we'll stay in the team and if we don't, then we don't unfortunately."
Nevertheless, Lawrence's initial displays - including a matchwinning half-century on debut in Galle and 96 runs on a spinners' deck in Ahmedabad - have given him confidence that he is "more than good enough" to succeed in the long term. And, after starring on England Lions' tour of Australia two winters ago, he believes he has plenty of good memories to fall back on when the Ashes action gets underway in just under two months' time.
"It's had a quite a big impact on my career," Lawrence admitted, after finishing as the Lions' stand-out performer in the first-class leg of their tour in February and March 2020. He scored 493 runs at 98.60 in six innings, with the second of his two hundreds coming at the MCG against Australia A, as England's second XI won their first unofficial Test Down Under after seven blank campaigns.
"I was really desperate that winter to get my name out there and be relentless, and score runs every week, and thankfully I did.
"It was a great opportunity, to not only experience some of the best grounds in Australia, but to learn how to score runs there, and how to develop and adapt my game. I know it's different to what the Ashes is going to be, but it is nice to have something in the bank, knowing that I have got the capability to score big runs consistently out there."
And when it comes to being relentless, Lawrence knows that he and his team-mates have been granted a ringside seat this year for one of the most impressive feats of run-harvesting in England's Test history. So far in 2021, Root has amassed 1455 runs at 66.13, with four scores in excess of 180, and almost 1000 runs more than the next most effective England batter (Burns, with 479).
"It was an absolute privilege to watch him from the dressing room all summer, and in the winter as well," Lawrence said. "He's obviously a bloke at the peak of his powers, batting as well as anyone has done for years and years.
"He's a very chilled-out, relaxed guy," Lawrence added. "He puts in loads of hours of training, and is really relentless when he gets in, and I think that's something that I'm trying to learn. Whenever you get a chance on decent wickets, cash in, really try and do that, because he's obviously very, very, very good at that."
Lawrence is one of a number of first-time Ashes tourists in England's batting unit - among them Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Ollie Pope and Zak Crawley, whom he described as "one of the most talented players I've ever seen".
"I think we'll look at ourselves honestly, we didn't perform as well as we would have liked, and that's not rocket science, that's just obvious to see," Lawrence said. "We didn't score as many runs we wanted, but there really is good potential obviously.
"I've had some performances … Sri Lanka on debut, a couple of decent knocks in India in tough conditions, and then a decent one at home [against New Zealand], but it's been a little bit too few and far between for my liking.
"I've definitely got confidence, having played a few Tests now, that I'm more than good enough to succeed at that level, which is brilliant. I'd just like to be a little bit more consistent and obviously that will come with time, and put all my effort into being the best cricketer I can be. I'm sure if I do that, then I can be successful for a good amount of time."
Dan Lawrence was speaking at the LV= Insurance "In With Heart" Tour, showcasing recipients of #Funds4Runs grants, a £1 million joint initiative between the ECB and LV= Insurance to support grassroots cricket.