England's Twenty20 defeat to Pakistan at Bristol, on Monday, means they have yet to win a limited overs match against serious opposition this summer. Their lone success came against Ireland, in the warm-up to their series against Sri Lanka, but even that included the warning signs of what was to come.
Their 5-0 whitewash to Sri Lanka included some of the worst bowling England have produced for a long while. They now have another five matches against Pakistan, who are even more daunting opposition as Shahid Afridi amply demonstrated in the Twenty20. The selectors have opted for a new collection of bowlers, with one-day recalls for Darren Gough and Jon Lewis, but they are now without the services of Steve Harmison - ruled out with a back problem.
However, the brightest spot of the five-wicket defeat in the Twenty20 was the performance from one of England's newcomers, Stuart Broad. His rise into the international ranks has been widely expected throughout the season. It gathered pace while his compatriots were flayed to all parts earlier in the summer as he was taking domestic cricket by storm. His first taste of the big time could not have started any better as he removed Shoaib Malik and Younis Khan in two balls.
"It was superb, it was nice to get my first wicket and to get Younis [Khan] next ball was great," he told Sky Sports News as England prepared for the opening ODI at Cardiff. "I was excited before the game and when I got into it I was really enjoying it. To get a couple of wickets on my debut, I was over the moon."
After his 2 for 35 at Bristol he was pushing his claims for a start in the ODIs, but that has now been virtually rubber-stamped by the withdrawl of Harmison. "The injury to Steve is very sad but he will come back fighting fit," he said. "The opportunities are there for me and hopefully if I get a chance I can do well and enjoy it."
With such an impressive debut thoughts have inevitably turned to Broad boarding the plane to Australia, with his new team-mate Darren Gough among those tipping him for a bright future. "He's playing for an Ashes place so he'll be champing at the bit to prove he can perform at that level," said Gough. "I would take him as a 17th person - even if he's the 17th of a 16-man party - and if he keeps improving then he'll take plenty of wickets."
However, Broad is not getting carried away: "I'm not setting targets, I just want to perform to my best in each game. I just try to take wickets wherever I bowl and try to enjoy it. The rest will take care of itself. To play in the Ashes would be a dream come true. Going on an Ashes tour at such a young age would be brilliant and a great learning experience but I'll let the selectors make the decision."
Pakistan are likely to field an unchanged team at Cardiff and Shoaib Akhtar, who returned to international action in the Twenty20, has an ominous warning for England. "Now we have a first-choice side, we are back on track, we have the bowlers back so we should be making our way towards a winning squad," he said. "The first two one-dayers will set the tune for us. I think we are a great one-day side and it will be a tough series for England."
England (probable) 1 Marcus Trescothick, 2 Ian Bell, 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Andrew Strauss (capt), 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Jamie Dalrymple, 7 Michael Yardy, 8 Chris Read (wk), 9 Sajid Mahmood, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 Darren Gough.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Shoaib Malik, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Abdul Razzaq, 8 Kamran Akmal (wk), 9 Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, 10 Shoaib Akhtar, 11 Mohammad Asif.