Many England players will be able to relate to these brief sojourns with the highest level. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, it seemed to be akin to a law that you would play no more Test matches than the number of lions on your shirt, because the selectors were searching for a miracle cure, someone who would be able to take to Test cricket instantly, like a fish to water. It's a good job, then, that England's selectors have become so much more rational and calculating in the last few years.
Chris Woakes, Simon Kerrigan, Joe Root, Nick Compton, James Taylor, Jonny Bairstow, Samit Patel, Ajmal Shahzad, Eoin Morgan, James Tredwell.
Among those players, four have played an above-average amount of Test matches. There are Compton (9), Root (13), Bairstow (13) and Morgan (16), which, as I say earlier, means that not one of them has yet had an average career.
Root, of course, will add to his thirteen caps. So, presumably, will Jonny Bairstow, and several of the others, assuming that Alastair Cook's current batch don't intend to play on into their forties. But why are England (and they most certainly aren't alone - look at New Zealand's latest spin recruits, Todd Astle, Bruce Martin and Ish Sodhi) struggling so badly to find someone who fits in?
This isn't a recent issue, either. Going back slightly further presents you with Michael Carberry (2 Tests), Graham Onions (9 Tests), Amjad Khan (1 Test), Darren Pattinson (1 Test), Jon Lewis (1 Test), Saj Mahmood (8 Tests), Owais Shah (6 Tests), Ian Blackwell (1 Test), Liam Plunkett (9 Tests) and Shaun Udal (4 Tests) since the open-top bus ride at the end of the Ashes. I think that this is telling of a side that has been struggling to recapture something that cannot be recreated, trying to replace players who don't come along twice.
Some, though, are simply the wrong selections. Chris Woakes was chosen in England's last Test, along with Simon Kerrigan, presumably as an experiment. They were both fringe players at best, and appeared to be playing for their plane tickets to Australia for the following Tests. They were essentially selected because they were unready, but with the intention of seeing if they were too unready to be sent on a tour where they probably wouldn't play anyway. That irrational selection may have added two more one-cap wonders to England's list, but both are also arguably players who could have proved valuable if they were picked at the right time.
Sometimes, bad luck comes into play. When Michael Carberry made his Test debut in 2009, he had scrapped his way up to third on the list of English openers. The selectors decided they wanted to try something different in the following Test, despite him scoring a brace of perfectly serviceable 30-plus innings. He then suffered a blood clot that threatened far more than his cricket career, and appeared to have missed the boat. Although it could very well be argued that his place at the top of the order for this Ashes series came as the result of a lucky series of events far more than his solitary Division Two century in the last two years, the fact remains that Carberry has had to fight for a Test career.
Sometimes, the selection is absolutely dead on the money. When Andrew Strauss retired, England urgently needed someone reliable at the top of the order, and the call went out to Nick Compton. A thinker and a grinder of runs, his main job was to see off the new ball and give England a start. He did that four times in his first five innings against India, once more in the last Test. His next two Tests brought back-to-back centuries against a surprisingly troublesome Kiwi side, and after six Tests he was averaging 47. He only added three more Tests before being callously and publicly discarded on the back of poor performances while nursing a fracture in his hand, and then repeatedly ignored when he went back and followed the selectors' instructions by scoring runs by the bucketload for Somerset. A large proportion of those runs came against the touring Australians. In my opinion, the mistake wasn't in selecting Compton; it was dropping him.
And spare a thought for James Faulkner. In the last Ashes Test in the summer, he took six wickets at a cost of 98 for the match. He has since continued to impress for Australia in the white-ball format, including with an ODI hundred in Bangalore that took his ODI batting average over 45. And somehow that has led to him being dropped for the next Test match. Which goes to prove that sometimes, (arguably) better players just come inconveniently out of the woodwork, like Mitchell Johnson has.
Average career = mean number of Test matches played
Average player = player with median length career