Melbourne: England go into the opening one-day international in Melbourne on Sunday desperate to salvage some pride, but face a torrid task with a fired-up Australia vowing no let-up after dominating the Ashes.
The first of five matches, a day-nighter, is the first opportunity to see how the shell-shocked tourists progress from their nightmare Test series, with captain Alastair Cook demanding an improvement, and quickly.
“I am desperate to try and turn it around,” he said after the 5-0 Ashes whitewash.
“When you strip everything down, every single player has to go back and have a look at themselves, have a look at their techniques. Have a look at the way they’ve bowled and start rebuilding again.
“And that hunger has to come from within to do it.”
The series could see either team reclaim the number one limited-overs world ranking, depending on how India fare when they face New Zealand in a five-match series that begins in Napier on January 19.
India are currently the top-ranked one-day team in the world, followed by Australia and England, with all three building towards next year’s 50-over World Cup.
A rattled England head into the series without the experience of Kevin Pietersen and Jimmy Anderson, who have both been rested, with Cook leading a team that has much to prove.
He also needs to rebuild dressing room discipline with Test wicketkeeper Matt Prior on Thursday saying that during the Ashes, the players had shown a lack of respect for both the captain and coach Andy Flower — who is reportedly at odds with Pietersen.
Former left-arm spinner Ashley Giles has taken over from Flower as the one-day coach, assuming responsibility with Cook for repairing some of the damage inflicted by Australia.
Only all-rounder Ben Stokes and paceman Stuart Broad came out of the Ashes with a semblance of pride, leaving the door open for the likes of Danny Briggs, Jos Buttler, Chris Jordan, Ravi Bopara and Chris Woakes to stake their claims in the one-day format.
Australia have recalled dynamic opener David Warner while captain Michael Clarke, who missed the one-day series in India last year with chronic back trouble, also returns.
But the tourists have been given some respite from Ashes man-of-the-series Mitchell Johnson, with the left-arm paceman rested for Melbourne after terrorising the tourists with 37 wickets during the Ashes.
“It’s important that we put out the best side we possibly can but we have to understand it’s been a hectic five Test matches and some of the Test boys especially are getting a bit weary,” coach Darren Lehmann said.
Ashes victors Brad Haddin, George Bailey and Shane Watson are all likely to play, although they too could be rested for one or more of the other four matches in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide.
“We’ll sum it up (resting) as we go. We certainly want to pick and choose where we can do it,” said Lehmann.
“We want to make sure we’re putting a good squad together looking ahead to the World Cup.”
Bailey was one of the few Australians to underperform during the Ashes and will be looking for some big scores to rescue his Test spot for next month’s three-Test tour of South Africa.
The same goes for impressive fast bowler James Pattinson, who is aiming to make it back for South Africa after missing the majority of the back-to-back Ashes series with stress fractures.