It started as soon as you stepped out into the sunlight at Vauxhall Station.

"Ball-tampering sandpaper, anyone?"

At regular intervals on the crowded walk from the station to The Oval, employees of one opportunistic company handed out squares of sandpaper, printed with 4s and 6s. Those arriving from Oval station were offered, courtesy of a tabloid newspaper, small posters showing a crying Steven Smith under the phrase, "We're only here for the tears."

It was predictable, of course, and undoubtedly raised a few chuckles. Ultimately though, if these were exercises in stirring up the crowd into a prop-waving frenzy, it was a bit of a waste; all such ambush marketing is banned at grounds and, apart from those that were well concealed, were confiscated at the gates.

After all the talk of a rowdy Oval crowd ready to get stuck into the Australians, it was rather a jovial atmosphere. There was noticeable jeering and the appearance of a few smuggled squares of the rough yellow stuff when Tim Paine dropped a top edge from Jos Buttler. The chirps were perhaps a little louder and a little more gleeful than they would have been for Sarfraz Ahmed or Quinton de Kock. And towards the end of the match, the odd voice could be heard shouting, "Aussie, aussie, aussie! Cheat, cheat, cheat!" But if that's the worst Australia have to deal with at the start of their redemption tour, they should probably be grateful.

"I'm pretty lucky I'm out in the middle so I don't really hear anything," Paine said after the match. "There wasn't any talk of copping too much stick out there which was nice of the English fans. Maybe if we win a few games they might."

Indeed, on the pitch it was all business. Once the goodwill handshakes were dutifully performed, there was no snarling and no obvious chatter. The only antagonism came from the other side of the world, where Darren Lehmann tweeted his displeasure towards at least one journalist reporting on the marketing material outside the ground. At a time when his former charges are attempting to reforge their reputation and regain respect it was, perhaps, an intemperate move.

Did we learn much about this transitional Australian team on its first outing? Certainly, their bowling attack is less intimidating without Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. But it would be churlish to judge any attack too harshly when the bowlers are tasked with defending 214 on a pitch where the par score was probably more like 314.

Befitting his considerable height and sharp pace, Billy Stanlake provided an awkward challenge - particularly with the new ball - and was rewarded with a brace of wickets. The first came with his second delivery of the match, a 90mph beaut that nipped back in and shaved the inside edge of Jason Roy's bat before shattering the stumps.

Andrew Tye's variations - Paine said after the match Tye believes he has "22 at last count" - were also rewarded here. His slower delivery was deceptive enough to fox Buttler, who was through his shot too quickly and spooned the ball to mid-on, and will undoubtedly claim more victims.

While England made the chase more interesting than it should probably have been with some rash shots, the rest of Australia's attack did a decent job in such circumstances. Kane Richardson appeared to struggle a little with his rhythm before settling and debutant Michael Neser left little in the tank. Overall it is difficult to surmise too much; this series may be a useful opportunity for Justin Langer to audition extra seamers but it is hard to ignore the assumption that Australia's big three will automatically return to the one-day side whenever they are fully fit.

But in conditions where Australia's spinners went wicketless, England's had a field day and this will be of greater long-term concern. As Paine noted, it is difficult for any team to win a match when the top five batsmen fail to score significant runs. When four of those fall to spin, it suggests a collective weakness and it was one well-exploited by Eoin Morgan. He introduced Moeen Ali in the ninth over and soon after drafted Adil Rashid and Joe Root to bowl 18 consecutive overs of spin.

"Today it was [a weakness], there's no doubt about that," Paine said. "It's something the whole group's been working on and it's something that we speak about a lot, trying to improve going into a World Cup year.

"It's certainly a work in progress, we know we haven't been fantastic at it but we're training really hard at it and I think if we can get some set batters in at the start it'll make a big difference."

This was Australia's second-lowest total batting first since the 2015 World Cup and the potential return of Smith and David Warner depends on a range of uncertainties, both of form and political factors. And if Langer decides to shuffle the available batsmen, move Aaron Finch down the order, bring in D'Arcy Short, elevate Glenn Maxwell - whose half-century was a welcome and positive sign that a big score may not be far away - or any of the other options available to him, they will still have to deal with England's spinners in Cardiff and beyond.