Australia's captain Steven Smith has conceded that his team has plenty of improvement left in them despite their victory in the tri-series final against West Indies in Barbados on Sunday. The win extended Australia's margin as the No.1-ranked ODI side in the world and they have now lost only one of their past eight ODI series, the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy campaign in New Zealand this year.
That run of success includes the 2015 World Cup triumph, but from that team they have lost Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson to retirement. Under Smith, the Australians will aim to add another significant piece of silverware to their trophy cabinet next year when the Champions Trophy tournament is held in England.
The post-World Cup exodus of experience has left Australia without any current hundred-game players in ODIs, although a solid core are in the 50- to 80-game range: Smith (79), George Bailey (76), David Warner (74), Matthew Wade (68), Glenn Maxwell (67), Aaron Finch (64), James Faulkner (54) and Mitchell Starc (51). It is this group that will lead Australia into the Champions Trophy and while they will likely enter the tournament as favourites, Smith knows it won't be easy.
"We've still got a lot of work to do," Smith said after the tri-series final. "I was pleased with the way we scrapped today. I'm using that word a lot, but it's been a bit of a theme throughout this series with the wickets we've been playing on. I was pleased we were able to get the job done. Our fielding still needs a lot of work. We need to be able to have the energy we had today in every game, and there's no reason why we shouldn't.
"We've got to continue to start well with the ball. In the last three or four series we've been up against some pretty dynamic opening batters, but they've got the better of us at the start. We've been lucky enough to pull it back in the middle overs and bowl pretty well at the death. We'll make things a lot easier for ourselves if we start really well."
There were no such issues against West Indies in the final. The first ten overs brought 48 for 0 but Josh Hazlewood struck in the next over with the first of his five wickets, and Mitchell Marsh claimed wickets in three consecutive overs to leave West Indies in trouble at 74 for 4 after 21 overs in their chase of 271.
"I think Josh is getting better and better every day," Smith said. "He's getting more comfortable in his body. He's been on the park for a significant amount of time now and he's very comfortable in that regard. That's a start. His skill set is outstanding. He hits terrific lengths, hits the seam and he's getting better and better every day. I'm really pleased for him to win the Man of the Series in this particular series.
"I thought the way Mitchell used his variations today was spot on. He's come a long way in this series. I thought he batted beautifully the other day [league match against West Indies] and I guess he's just going to gain a lot more confidence out of what he did the other day and what he's done today. I'm really pleased for him."
That Australia had a decent total to defend was largely down to the work of wicketkeeper Wade, whose 57 from 52 balls batting at No.7 ensured that 173 for 6 did not become all-out in the low 200s. Wade has been Australia's preferred ODI wicketkeeper since the retirement of Haddin last year, and in that time has made 352 runs at 32.00, with three fifties from 15 innings.
"I thought Matthew Wade played beautifully," Smith said. "He played with a lot of composure and played good cricket shots, and batted with the tail, who stuck around and did a terrific job to get us to 270. That was incredibly pleasing.
"I think he can take a lot of confidence out of the way he played today. He's played pretty well with the bat throughout the series as well. I've watched him in the nets, he's probably hitting the ball as well as anyone. I wasn't surprised that he was able to do what he did today. I'm pleased for him.
"No doubt he was disappointed about not keeping at the World Cup. You've got to be disappointed with that. He's been great around the group. He's been very vocal. He gets the guys up as much as he can drive the energy. That's what the keeper needs to do, and he's done that very well throughout this series."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale