With barely three months remaining until England face Australia in Brisbane, the team’s management find themselves in a fix.
Barring a dramatic improvement from the opposition, these two remaining matches against West Indies, at Headingley and Lord’s, will tell England little about the shape they are in for the five Tests this winter.
If the newcomers - Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley and Dawid Malan - perform well in the next two matches, what does that mean?
Sadly, it is irrelevant. With the possible exception of Kemar Roach, the West Indies bowling line-up is hardly better than a county attack.
Runs against them are no indication of whether a player might succeed in Australia.
If, on the other hand, the batting trio struggle, what should England do then? They would have to include an untested or an unproven player in the team, on one of the toughest tours there is.
England would love to find room again for Haseeb Hameed, the Lancashire batsman, at the top of the order, but the 20-year-old has scored a single 50 in the County Championship this summer and has only just sneaked above Jimmy Anderson in his county’s 2017 batting averages.
Gary Ballance has had no such problems in Division One cricket this summer, in which he averages more than 100. The Yorkshire player is also favoured by captain Joe Root, his old flatmate, yet despite Root’s approval, the doubts remain.
Ballance made a good start to his Test career but since he was left out during the 2015 Ashes series, he has twice been recalled and has failed to convince on either occasion.
Australia exposed his technical weakness against pace two years ago and would be confident of doing so again in the months ahead.
After England had beaten South Africa at Old Trafford last month, coach Trevor Bayliss hinted that Keaton Jennings was likely to make the trip to Australia - even though Jennings failed to make a half-century in four Tests against the Proteas and was dropped for the West Indies series.
As they prepare for the Second Investec Test at Headingley, which starts on Friday, England can at least be comforted by the quality and depth of their fast-bowling options.
Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are the world’s finest new-ball pair, Ben Stokes can turn a game with the ball, and Toby Roland-Jones has been so impressive that Chris Woakes has not really been missed.
Woakes will come back into the team and England will also think long and hard about taking Mark Wood to Australia. When fit, Wood is England’s quickest bowler but his career has been interrupted by injuries, with the latest - a similar heel problem to the one that has affected Stuart Broad - ruling him out of the final two Tests against South Africa.
Wood told ESPNcricinfo: “Hopefully, I can still be an asset in Australian conditions. I know there are plenty of options for the selectors but I’d like to think I can offer something different, although I know I am down the pecking order now.”