England see their NatWest Series campaign against Australia as a key indicator of their prospects in a certain major assignment next winter.
It is the World Cup in the sub-Continent, though, rather than the Ashes which will be on their minds as they test themselves against the world's number one-ranked team over the next two weeks.
The five-match series is being touted by many as an Ashes rehearsal, England and Australia jousting for supremacy between the 2009 and 2010/11 Test series.
Yet England captain Andrew Strauss insists, understandably, there is no sensible rationale to equate 50-over form to five-day matches.
"I think this will bear no relation whatsoever to that Ashes series, which is still a long way away," he said.
"I think it would be wrong for us to draw those conclusions, if we won the series - and equally so if we lost it."
The World Cup, of course, is even further away. But it will at least be played over the same format as the contest set to get under way at The Rose Bowl this afternoon.
"The key to this series is preparation for the World Cup, and every one-dayer between now and then is a chance for us to nail down our tactics and make sure we've got the right personnel on board," Strauss added.
His England team, like the one which won the ICC World Twenty20 under Paul Collingwood last month, has undergone a revolution - in its ethos, rather than personnel - since suffering a 6-1 trouncing at home to Australia last September.
The switch to a more attacking brand of cricket was born shortly afterwards out of a Johannesburg summit meeting between captain, team director Andy Flower and the entire squad.
"We'd been bumbling along, not looking like a team that was going to threaten the better ones in the world consistently," Strauss remembers.
"We've asked ourselves some pretty tough questions and have come out with a formula that seems promising.
"There will be the odd bump along the road, but I think the guys are keen to buy into a principle of playing the game which I think is going to give us a good chance at home - and probably more importantly - away from home."
Strauss' own batting form will be key - but not appreciably more so, he stresses, than anyone else's.
His new partnership with Craig Kieswetter began with a century stand against Scotland last weekend, and he said: "It's always good to get some runs at the top of the order, and play in an attacking manner.
"But it's a slightly different kettle of fish against Australia.
"The reality is we are all under pressure to score runs all the time, and I'm no different from that as captain.
"At the top of the order, I think there is a slight extra responsibility on the shoulders of me and Kieswetter to get the lads off to a good start.
"We're excited about that and full of confidence as a batting group, and that allows us to feed off each other.
"We're going into this series, myself included, both confident and excited about what is to come."