This time next week, England will be on their way to Australia to begin their three-week build-up to the first Ashes Test. Former captain Michael Vaughan says the squad has to find the right balance between tuning up for Brisbane, and risking being so intense that they exhaust themselves early in the series.
England play three warm-up matches in Perth, Adelaide and Townsville before the opening Test at the Gabba on November 23. Adding a challenging dynamic to the build-up this time will be the continued fallout to the Ben Stokes incident in Bristol, which means the allrounder won't be flying out with the squad and his participation in any part of the tour remains uncertain.
Not only do England have to work out how they reshuffle the side in Stokes' likely absence - at the moment it appears playing an extra bowler will be the preferred option - but there remain questions over the top-order batting following another season where positions two, three and five were far from nailed down. A key part of England's success in the 2010-11 Ashes was their ruthlessness in the warm-up matches, but Vaughan believes it's also important for players to know when to switch off.
"That period of the three warm-up games, in a players' mind, feel like Test matches because of the exposure. Every little moment gets built up, one spell of bowling or one score and you are pushed into contention for the team. Yes, the first Test is massive but it's the preparation that can drain a player," Vaughan told ESPNcricinfo as he was officially unveiled as part of BT Sport's commentary team for the series.
"I've always said that to be a successful player across an Ashes series, you have to have an egg-timer, this ability to keep turning it over. If you allow the sand to drop all the way through with your emotions, not taking your mind away from the series, by the first or second Test you'll be drained.
"You have to be able to switch on and off because it's thrown in your face everywhere you go, but those players who can take a little step back - get into something different - will probably stand the test of time over a five-match series."
In the aftermath of the brawl in Bristol in late September which led to Stokes - and Alex Hales - being made unavailable for England selection until further notice, coach Trevor Bayliss and director of England cricket Andrew Strauss said the issue of curfews and how much freedom players are given would be looked at. However, Vaughan hopes that the players in Australia are not confined to their hotels.
"If you arrive in Australia and it's all about that first ball in Brisbane, then it becomes a long three-and-a-half weeks," he said. "They have to play cricket, focus hard, but also enjoy being in Australia. I hope the incident with Ben Stokes and Alex Hales doesn't put the team into a reclusive nature. Professionalism is key. There's a time and a place to go out and have some fun, but also to know when to put your cricket hat on. But I think they should be out playing golf, going to restaurants, mixing with the public."
England's Ashes squad could be divided into eight nailed-on names (although Stokes was one of those) plus another eight selections who split opinion. Mark Stoneman did enough against West Indies to earn a run alongside Alastair Cook, James Vince is set to be recalled to bat at No. 3, with Gary Ballance and Dawid Malan vying for the No. 5 position.
There will be a huge amount of focus on Joe Root in his first Ashes as captain, but Vaughan said that ultimately he needs performances from individuals to be successful.
"I've always been a big believer that leadership of teams is over-egged, I don't really know anyone who can lead 20 people. The process of winning as a team begins with the individual.
"I'm looking at the team - if Stokes does go - I look at eight players of high experience, high quality and another eight who have been selected, and it's not being disrespectful to them, but there could have been another eight instead of them, then another eight. It was just a debate.
"You look at the eight experienced players - Cook, Root, Ali, Bairstow, Stokes if he's there, Woakes, Broad and Anderson - I wouldn't say I'd put all my focus into those eight as a captain, because you have to make sure the others are in fine fettle, but for England to win those eight have to be on their game."