If there was one blot on the otherwise spotless record of Australia's previous generation of cricketers, it was the perception of a lack of intensity in dead rubbers. It was, in fairness, a minor complaint - they were dead rubbers for a reason - but one Ricky Ponting's new-look squad can seek to improve upon over the final week of their three-month UK sojourn.

No longer is the Australian side blessed with wall-to-wall match-winners under little pressure to retain their places in the starting XI. Rather, this is a side with much to prove, both individually and collectively, and with the Champions Trophy and a one-day tour of India on the horizon, the Australians will be acutely aware that the final two ODIs at Trent Bridge and Chester-le-Street represent a chance to impress selectors for future series.

Peter Siddle is in such a position. Handed his second one-day cap on Tuesday, Siddle currently resides on the second tier of limited-overs pacemen, behind Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Bracken. Desperate for a promotion, Siddle is adamant there is a lot at stake - 5-0 series lead or not.

"There's obviously plenty to play for," he said. "For myself, to try and do well and shore up a spot for the Champions Trophy is my aim, and the whole aim of the side is to progress well in the next couple of games and be ready to go once we get over there. We don't want to slacken off and let all that momentum we've worked up blow away in the last two matches and go over to South Africa not ready. We're going to be fighting hard and trying our best to win the next two, win 7-0, and be ready to go once we get over to South Africa.

"It's about getting the right side that's going to be ready for game one at the Champions Trophy. That's what the next few matches are about - going out and performing well and showing them that you're ready to go and ready for that opportunity once you're over there."

Injury, form and circumstance have combined to install Siddle as one of Australia's three first-choice Test fast bowlers ahead of Lee. In the one-day arena, however, it is the latter who has the edge over his younger rival and claims to the new-ball for the Champions Trophy and beyond in India.

Siddle has yet to bowl alongside Lee in a one-day international - his starting berth on Tuesday came on account of the selectors' desire to rest Lee ahead of a gruelling limited-overs schedule - but the Victorian pace man is hopeful the faster, bouncier conditions of South Africa will lend themselves to the pair operating in tandem.

"Over here it's obviously me or him at the moment and the way he's been bowling and the way he bowls in the short form of the game is outstanding," Siddle said. "He's got an amazing record. I've just got to bide my time and take my opportunity when I get it.

"I think it depends on the wickets more than anything on how they want to go about their line-up over there. Obviously South African wickets will be a little bit faster with a little more pace in them, so I might have a little more of a chance of actually playing with him than fighting it out with him for a spot. "

At 24, and with only a handful of first-class appearances to his name, Siddle's promotion to the Test side was both rapid and largely unexpected on Australia's 2008 tour of India. His one-day career has, by contrast, progressed at a more methodical pace, leading to a sense of frustration for a bowler who thrives on the aggression and thrill of the contest. It is a fact of life he is learning to deal with.

"It is tough if you're out on the sidelines carrying drinks and you wonder when you're going to get that chance," he said. "I was lucky enough to get mine last night. Hopefully I can stay in for the next couple and see how I go from there.

"You just always think that it's better being over here with the touring side than being back home and being that little bit further away from being in the side. At least if you're here and carrying the drinks you're a touch closer than the bloke sitting back at home. That's always a pleasing thing to think about."

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo