Moeen Ali set down a marker for England's approach to the 2015 World Cup by blazing to a 38-ball 50 against an ACT Invitational XI in his team's first match down under. He backed the innings up with strong words on the eve of the Prime Minister's XI fixture on Wednesday, stressing the need for the England top three to be expansive risk takers over the next 10 weeks.
The early-innings paralysis that had been afflicting England in the latter days of Alastair Cook's time in charge had been one of the chief reasons why seasoned observers gave them very little hope of lifting the Cup on March 29. But Cook's omission from the squad and the emergence of Moeen as a gifted, free-spirited opener has redressed the balance somewhat.
At Manuka, Moeen has been partnered by the more sedate Ian Bell rather than Alex Hales. Whoever joins him at the top against Australia either on Friday or in their World Cup opener against the hosts at the MCG on February 14, Moeen made it patently clear they will need to be thinking and batting boldly.
"If we are going to win the World Cup and be a successful one-day side we will need good starts. We need guys in the top three who can set the standards for everyone else and be expansive and take some risks," Moeen said. "I think it was good first time out [with Bell]. I felt we complemented each other really well so it was nice.
"I wouldn't say it's difficult to change partners. I just go and play how I need to play on that particular day. The good thing about it is that we now have a left and right-hand combination and that can make it a little more difficult for the bowlers. Aggressively is probably the only way I can play in one-day cricket. Sometimes I face 30 balls and I feel as though I've faced 50 or 60. It's the natural sort of thing I've done for a few years now. I feel it's the best way for me to play, and if I've got any doubt I just tell myself to go hard and not go into a little shell.
"Naturally I will be aggressive but I had to take my time a little bit yesterday with it being the first game. There were expansive shots when we needed them. I will just bat how I normally do and if there's something to hit, I'll hit it. In Sri Lanka I got bowled first ball having a slog. It's not nice to get out first ball but I'd prefer to get out having a go rather than just blocking it."
Bell and Moeen have a history dating back to the younger man's early days with Warwickshire. They would appear to dovetail nicely as a pairing, provided Moeen does not feel too much pressure to belt every ball to the fence as Bell intersperses his correct and measured game with regular boundaries.
"I've batted with Belly quite a bit," Moeen said. "When I first started at Warwickshire, he was there and I enjoy batting with him. He's quite busy, he's very good at getting singles as well as the boundary shots and is a classy player, so I really enjoy batting with him and hopefully we will be a good combination together.
"I think our styles complement each other. It's a bit early to say. We've both got to bat our way. If he gets a hundred-ball hundred, that for him is the way to go. He should just bat the way he does and not worry about being too aggressive and hopefully I can take a bit of pressure off him at the other end and make it easier for him."
The other major string to Moeen's bow is the finger spin that has grown exponentially as a skill over the past two years. While England's plans call for the inclusion of the steady James Tredwell, Moeen said he was preparing for a major role as a spin bowler on this tour. He also revealed that he often found it more straightforward to bowl straight lines on the sorts of unresponsive pitches expected in Australia, rather than getting his angles right on turning surfaces.
"Sometimes it's difficult to bowl on pitches that spin a lot because your line changes," he said. "Against top-quality players I feel you have to try to hit the stumps as quickly as you can, so it's sometimes easier when there's not a lot of spin. That's how I feel anyway. But it will be tough because Australians play spin very well and are very aggressive against spin.
"I'm going to prepare like I've got a big role to play with the ball. There will be times when perhaps I won't bowl as much as Treddy and vice-versa, but I will definitely prepare like I've got a big role to play."
The PM's XI fixture will be a significant step up from the mediocre fare provided by the ACT XI's bowlers and batsmen, not least in the form of the captain Chris Rogers, who is well familiar with all of England's World Cup squad through his time with Middlesex, among others.
"As a team, tomorrow is a chance to show we've taken a step forward and that we have intent and will come harder at Australia than perhaps we have done previously," Moeen said. "We just need to focus on what we need to do and try to win the game tomorrow. Yesterday, the standard of the opposition wasn't as good as it will be tomorrow, but we showed we can be quite ruthless. That can only be good and hopefully we will put in a good performance tomorrow against a good side."