A fresh start, or just more pain?
January 12, 2014, Melbourne
Start time 2.20pm (0320GMT)
The Big Picture
For Australia there is a World Cup to build for and the chance to add more pain. For England there is a World Cup to build for and a chance to start repairing some of the damage from the Ashes humiliation.
In the previous four Ashes series the side watching the victors celebrate with the urn have achieved some modicum of retribution, albeit small, with success in the one-day contests that follow. However, given the traumatising effect of the last six weeks, it would be a brave person who would back Alastair Cook's side to continue that trend.
In 2006-07, Andrew Flintoff's brittle and disenchanted team somehow managed to snatch the CB Series from Australia's grasp with such names as Liam Plunkett, Ed Joyce and Paul Nixon to the fore. That fleeting moment of relief was followed by a shocking World Cup campaign while Australia went unbeaten to a hat-trick of titles.
This time there is still a year until the global 50-over trophy is up for grabs, but that time will pass quickly and important markers can be laid over the coming weeks. England need to work out the balance of their top six and which bowlers will support Stuart Broad and James Anderson, although the latter is perhaps not certain to be there. Who of Steven Finn, Boyd Rankin, Tim Bresnan, Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes are the men to star with the white ball?
Australia, although understandably carrying the swagger of 5-0 winners, have some pace-bowling slots of their own to nail down and need to decide whether Xavier Doherty is the man to be their spinner in 2015. There is also a battle at the top of the order with Aaron Finch aiming to firm up an opening slot alongside the recalled David Warner.
Form guide(Completed matches, most recent first)
Watch out for
Ravi Bopara enjoyed a resurgent 2013 in England's one-day side after his troubles of the previous year. If his pull off Ishant Sharma in the Champions Trophy final at Edgbaston had been placed slightly better he could have produced the defining performance of his career. Ifs and buts don't mean much although the way Bopara went about his ODI cricket was highly encouraging both with bat and ball. It was in Australia, on the 2006-07 tour, that he made his debut and much was expected of him. Development has taken longer than many hoped, but now he has the chance to show he is here for the long haul.
James Faulkner was at the Ashes celebrations in Sydney, but during the series itself he was the perennial 12th man, unable to force a change in the Australian line-up. This, though, is a format where he has already shown his worth: his previous ODI innings was a hair-raising 116 off 73 balls, batting at No. 7, against India in Bangalore. Bowling in that series was a fearsome prospect, but Faulkner came out of the carnage better than some. Neither, as his comments on his Test debut showed, is he shy at having a word or two.
There will be plenty of fresh faces for England, particularly in the middle order where Bopara and Eoin Morgan will form the fulcrum followed by Jos Buttler. Stuart Broad is rested for this and the second match meaning the likes of Chris Jordan or Chris Woakes will get a chance. The former's extra pace should make him favourite.
England (possible) 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Joe Root, 4 Ravi Bopara, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Chris Jordan, 10 James Tredwell, 11 Boyd Rankin
James Pattinson will have to wait a little longer for his international return while Shaun Marsh is the batsman to miss out. Darren Lehmann has said that Clint McKay is under pressure to lift after struggling in India - although he was not the only bowler to take a hammering - and being dropped from his BBL team.
Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Shane Watson, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 George Bailey, 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty
Pitch and conditions
A true surface can be expected although sometimes they are a little on the slow side. The really hot weather is not due until next week and there is a chance of a shower on match day although it is expected to clear by the time the game begins.
Stats and trivia
- When these teams previously met at the MCG in 2011, Shane Watson hit an unbeaten 161 to take Australia to victory chasing 295.
- Xavier Doherty needs one wicket to reach 50 in ODIs
- This fixture will be repeated on the opening day of the World Cup on February 14 next year
"The psychological edge we take is our success against the same team recently in the UK. I don't look too much into what's just happened in the five Test matches."
"We came here to win the Ashes, everyone knows how important they are, but now we've lost them if we win this one-day series we can salvage some pride."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo