Australia's defeat to India does not need to spell panic in the camp - it did, after all, end a run of ten victories in a row - but it does reignite the debate about whether their thinking is flexible enough, and the batting order dynamic enough, to make a sustained tilt at defending their World Cup title.

For a moment, it is worth stepping back a few months: to Mohali in March. Australia levelled their series against India with a record chase of 359 - comfortably, too, with 13 balls to spare, despite having been 12 for 2. The architects of that terrific performance were Peter Handscomb, who scored his maiden ODI hundred, and Ashton Turner with a thrilling 84 not out off 43 balls.

Neither of those batsmen made Australia's 15-man World Cup squad, ceding space for the returns of David Warner and Steven Smith. The resurgence of the one-day team in the lead-in to the World Cup, coupled with the availability of the big two again, made it mighty tough for the selectors. Handscomb, especially, was bitterly unlucky.

For all the back and forth over the comebacks of Warner and Smith, they weren't going to be left out, but omitting two players who had brought something different to Australia's middle order put the onus on those who did make it to show they could adapt, and that the management could adapt their thinking when needed.

WATCH ON HOTSTAR: Highlights of Steven Smith's innings (India Only)

Back in the present, Sunday at The Oval, and Australia were chasing something very near that Mohali milestone having leaked 352. Success felt a long shot significantly before the finish, with Alex Carey's 55 off 35 balls only narrowing the margin and suggesting what could have been.

Warner and Smith, the two players who weren't in the top seven in Mohali, both made half-centuries but at strike rates under 100, and didn't convert into the three figures Handscomb had done that day. While Smith couldn't find the next gear before being lbw - the first of three wickets in seven balls which killed the chase - his game continues to look in good order.

It was Warner's innings, and the style of it, which provoked much of the debate - 56 off 84 balls, of which 48 were dots. He and Aaron Finch added 61 for the opening partnership at under five runs an over, with the first ten overs including 39 dot balls. When Warner fell in the 25th over, the asking rate was touching nine, but in walked Usman Khawaja, pushed down to No. 4 for the first time in his ODI career when Smith had come in at three to maintain a left-right hand combination, to try and combat India's spinners. That was a small degree of adaptability, but between two similar-style players rather than a significant attempt to wrestle control of the game. Khawaja's stand of 69 with Smith then took 12 overs before Glenn Maxwell got to the crease in the 37th over needing ten an over. It didn't feel like the best way to chase 353.

In the Mohali chase, Maxwell's contribution was brief, but Turner pulled out one of the finest finishing hands seen for Australia in recent times. Yesterday, it was all on Maxwell, who briefly sparkled with an early rush of boundaries before skying one into the deep after losing Smith and Marcus Stoinis - whose runs are drying up - in three balls.

Warner's innings followed his sluggish 89 against Afghanistan. There was no problem that day as he guided a comfortable chase in his first international for more than a year, but the tempo against India raised a few questions about the type of batsman who was returned even if Maxwell suggested it could be as much to do with conditions.

"It might be the conditions, it might be the ball, I'm not really sure," he said. "It seems to be doing a little but more than what I've seen it do over here. We all expected big 500 scores, balls to be pinging all over the place, but the ball has started swinging in the five-ten-over mark rather than straightaway then stopping. The balls are seaming, the bounce is a little more variable."

The difference with the Mohali game was not huge in how this chase unfolded: that day the third wicket, also Khawaja, fell at 204 in the 34th with Australia needing nine an over. But there it felt Australia had grabbed back some impetus in the chase. At The Oval, it never felt like authority had been stamped on the innings. Unsurprisingly, those left trying to play catch-up in the middle order were quick to defend their top order, saying no thought had been given to switching things around.

"We probably hit the field a little too much, something like the singles in the first ten overs," Maxwell said. "With the way they bowled and fielded, their tactics were really good, they were able to keep us down. I thought the guys did really well to get through. Davey didn't have his best day but was able to stick it out rather than throwing his wicket away early. He was able to bat deeper for us, which is a key thing.

"Unfortunately, probably the first big risk he took he got out but another day he hits that for six and he's away. I think it's about one of those guys going on and getting a hundred… if those risks we are getting out on are going over the fence or finding the gap all of a sudden you can be away."

"With Steve Smith on sixty and Warner on fifty, Usman Khawaja to come who has just had an amazing series against India and Marcus Stoinis' power hitting, there's so many options," Carey said. "We trust the batters with the order we've got, unfortunately today we were probably chasing a few too many. We had a good shake, but [needed] one of the top four to push through and make a bigger score."

Centuries from the top four are key, but so is the tempo the runs come at. During the recent revival of Australia's one-day fortunes, Justin Langer made it clear they needed to stop trying to copy other methods and play in a way that works for them. It isn't broken after a defeat to one the favourites for the World Cup. But it is a reminder that to go all the way, the occasional swift shift of tactics to make the running will likely be required.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo