England can take great delight in the way their players have turned up for the ODI series against Australia.
The brand of cricket Eoin Morgan’s team plays is perfect suited to a series of exhibition matches with their dazzling array of skills and exciting players.
This team has been built with a purpose though, and it is not winning bilateral series against experimental teams, England want to win the World Cup.
If England sweep the ODI series in Australia it will give them confidence for sure but questions will remain about this unit’s ability to perform in the heightened intensity of tournament play.
In the Champions Trophy they ran into intensity made form in the shape of Pakistan’s bowling attack and faltered.
For England this series must be about sharpening their skills and making use of their squad, if they achieve good results that will be great but ultimately meaningless if they flop in 2019.
Australia on the other hand are clearly off the pace but we’d be very surprised if Steve Smith’s charges failed to make the knockout phase of the 2019 World Cup.
The reigning World champions haven’t found their best form in the two ODIs so far but they have rotated their bowlers and their middle order has misfired.
They were shown the risks of going into a match without a spinner based on the reputation of a venue and would do well to remember this in England next year.
Darren Lehmann and Smith are likely to have a pretty good idea of who they want in their group when Australia prepare for what could be a glorious 2019 or a chastening display of how cricket has moved on.
Australia have always had big tournament swagger the only question is will persistent bilateral series dilute the psychological effect facing the men in gold has had since the late 90s.
There is of course method to Australia’s fiddling in the first two games of this ODI series and further back in the team that went to India, they will be desperate to ensure that Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood step out onto the park in 2019.
The return of the big three in the third ODI couldn’t prevent a series defeat though with Hazlewood suggesting that more time be spent on white ball skills.
Those three have already been cast in their roles but understudies must be found in case one or more of them are unable to take to the grandest stage in ODI cricket.
Don’t get me wrong though, Australia don’t want to lose this series to England and Smith will be determined to see his side improve after being blown out of the water in the first two contests.
The ICC has its plans to grant more significance to bilateral cricket beyond rankings but they will not come into full force until after the World Cup and in the meantime fans and pundits alike have to fabricate their own narrative to give meaning to these exhibitions beyond keeping the lights burning.