England test World Cup credentials
England cricket supporters basking in some pleasant memories over the past 18 months have no time to slumber: the relentless international calendar now dishes up a seven-match one-day series beginning in Australia on Sunday.
"What's this?" I hear many of you groan. "Seven one-day internationals!? Do we really need to play seven?"
Actually, yes. Reinforcing the point that the first match of the World Cup is pretty soon - 19 February since you ask - the trophy will be on display outside Gate 1 of the MCG for two hours leading up to the first Australia v England day-nighter in Melbourne.
And, loath though I am to quote directly from a press release, as the ICC's Haroon Lorgat correctly observes: "In recent months we have seen some truly great Test cricket around the world but now it's time for the one-day format to take centre stage."
Third in the official Test rankings, England may only be fifth on the ODI ladder but they have won their last five series in the 50-over-a-side game.
Eoin Morgan has quickly established his role in the middle order to finish off run chases - or take England to big scores when batting first - and James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann are becoming very effective bowlers.
Shahzad is on the fringes of World Cup contention (Getty)
Despite dreadful campaigns in the previous four World Cups, the expectation must be that England can genuinely challenge this time around. It is a trophy they have never won.
Pessimists will point to the fact that winning ODIs in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where this year's tournament will be held, requires some very special attributes.
Power-hitting, ultra-disciplined bowling and getting reverse swing from the white ball, plus supreme fitness to ward off fatigue in intensely hot and humid conditions will be de facto requirements.
Winning out there is tough. England's record in India and Sri Lanka - 24 wins and 36 losses - is not brilliant. Though they have beaten Bangladesh in Bangladesh six times, they have also lost to South Africa there.
The difficulty Andrew Strauss's side face is that the skills which will be vital in the World Cup may not come to the fore so often on the faster, bouncier Australian wickets which are their immediate concern.
Nothing beats winning, though. So England's focus will be squarely on doing what has to be done to beat the Australians, rather than plotting the World Cup campaign.
Broad, who on Thursday received a positive update on the abdominal injury that has laid him low since mid-December, and Anderson, rested for the first three ODIs, are World Cup certainties if fit.
With Tim Bresnan also shaping up well, back-up seamers Chris Woakes, Ajmal Shahzad and Chris Tremlett will be pushing hard to provide the sort of match-winning performance which might gain them selection when the final 15 for the subcontinent are named.
Time is not on their side - England have to name their World Cup squad by Wednesday.
Woakes, just 21, has already shown how dangerous his batting is in the two Twenty20 matches. But there are a few concerns about his bowling, which was slightly predictable in those matches and not much above medium pace.
Pietersen has not hit an ODI half-century since 2008 (PA)
With Matt Prior having disappointed too often in an ODI shirt, Surrey's Steve Davies is the gloveman in favour, and is also Andrew Strauss's opening partner. It's an important double assignment for him.
The middle order has been reliant on Morgan's consistency of late, with Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood both needing strong series.
Pietersen equalled Viv Richards' record when hitting his first 1,000 one-day runs from 21 matches, but despite possessing the ideal game for ODIs, his form since the start of 2009 has been awful in this format.
He has not had a half-century in 16 innings, and before you rush to check there are no not-outs in that lot either.
Collingwood has done much better in the same 24-month period, but given his lean tour of Australia so far England need a big innings from the Durham veteran some time soon.
Given how well Pietersen has been hitting the ball down under, I'm confident he will come good. It does not look so good for a very scratchy Collingwood, but he has performed sudden metamorphoses before, so here's hoping.
Aside from producing an entertaining video diary of the tour so far, Graeme Swann has travelled under the radar a little. Now would be a good time for him to steal some of the headlines. An in-form Swann will be essential in the subcontinent.
What of England's opponents? Australia, ranked number one in the world in ODIs and winners of the past three World Cups, demand tremendous respect, even with some players not in the best of form.
Oddly, they have named a squad only for the first match, but it includes some interesting players like spinner Nathan Hauritz, who must still wonder how he did not play at all in the Ashes and may have a point to prove. Skipper Michael Clarke will be under a fair bit of pressure - can he respond?
For both teams this is a very important series, and it's also very hard to pick a winner.