England drew a line under their Edinburgh humbling by getting back to winning ways against Australia - a fifth ODI victory over their old rivals in six encounters this year. The margin was closer than many would have anticipated after Australia limped their way to 214 all out, however, as England's Vegas-or-bust approach nearly undid them once again.
Given that England's strength is their batting, they will be confident of hitting their straps again soon enough; and runs for the captain Eoin Morgan, who top-scored with 69, augur well after another patchy spell. The fact that victory at The Oval was set up by the bowlers was perhaps most significant, given their travails in Scotland. The seamers all did their bit, while Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid suggested that spin could be England's trump card in the series.
Australia's problems with the bat seem more deep-rooted, with too many old-fashioned accumulators in their line-up (as well as a long tail). Tim Paine highlighted afterwards the fact that a top score of 24 among the top five won't help you win too many ODIs, and his own role in the side remains something of an issue: coming in above Glenn Maxwell, he found neither tempo nor staying power and fell to an ungainly, pre-meditated reverse sweep against Moeen.
Maxwell's innings, the closest Australia came to free-flowing, was something to take with them across the Severn to Wales, as was a spirited bowling display in which Billy Stanlake and AJ Tye shone to suggest that their pace reserves run deep even in the absence of the big three, Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins. But the foundations on which Justin Langer is aiming to build for next year's World Cup look far from steady.
England WLWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
David Willey came out of the Scotland defeat as chastened as any of England's players - figures of 0 for 72 followed by 7 with the bat - but he was the man to guide them home at The Oval, an unbeaten 35 the most significant innings of his ODI career to date. He swung the new ball appreciably, too, removing Travis Head early on and helping to plant doubt in Australian minds. A combative allrounder who is constantly looking to improve - he spoke afterwards about his efforts to a develop a slower 'knuckleball' - England need to find a way to get the best out of him consistently.
Remarkably for a player of his calibre, Glenn Maxwell's 62 from 64 balls was his first ODI half-century since January 2017. There has been much focus on his role in the 50-over format in recent times. Dropped from the squad during the southern summer for not "training smart" enough, he found his way back into the side against England in Perth and then enjoyed a productive T20 tri-series, but saw his form dip once against at the IPL. With the World Cup looming ever closer, any sign of Maxwell getting his mojo back will be warmly welcomed in Australia.
England are still without Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes and will tempted to stick with the same team, though spin is rarely as effective a weapon at Sophia Gardens, which could lead to Tom Curran or Jake Ball - Man of the Match against New Zealand in Cardiff during last year's Champions Trophy - coming into contention.
England: (possible) 1 Jonny Bairstow, 2 Jason Roy, 3 Alex Hales, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 David Willey, 9 Liam Plunkett, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Mark Wood
The temptation to fit T20 pocket-rocket D'Arcy Short into the XI will be there for Australia, after their flaccid batting effort at The Oval. Travis Head could make way, or possibly a seamer with Aaron Finch dropping to the middle order and Marcus Stoinis filling in with the ball. Jhye Richardson's extra pace may also get an outing.
Australia: (possible) 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Travis Head/D'Arcy Short, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 Marcus Stoinis, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Tim Paine (capt & wk), 7 Ashton Agar, 8 Michael Neser, 9 Andrew Tye, 10 Jhye Richardson/Kane Richardson, 11 Billy Stanlake
Pitch and conditions
Cardiff is prone to producing slow, tacky surfaces, but this one appears fresher than the pitch England came unstuck on against Pakistan in the semi-final of the 2017 Champions Trophy. The short, straight boundaries can mitigate against spin - Moeen, whose 3 for 43 sucked the life out of Australia at The Oval, has only ever bowled two overs in ODIs on the ground. There is a possibility of showers affecting the start of the game on Saturday but the weather should clear up.
Stats and trivia
Morgan needs 41 runs to overtake Ian Bell as England's leading run-scorer in ODIs.
England have lost three of their last five ODIs at Cardiff, including last year's Champions Trophy semi.
"It can be a good wicket here - also it can turn a bit ... If it is a slow turner, we'll use our experience from last year and hope to adapt."
Liam Plunkett on the Cardiff challenge
"To be able to push England as far as we did with such a below-par total gives us a lot of confidence. We couldn't have batted much worse but we still gave ourselves a chance at the end.''
Glenn Maxwell takes the positives