The Ashes are gone, two lynchpins of the side are no longer available for selection and uncertainty hangs over English cricket ahead of one of the sport’s showpiece fixtures.
A crowd of close to 90,000 will pack in to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day, the vast majority of them Australians looking to apply the kill.
The majority of the England players will have wonderful memories of their last Boxing Day fixture, when they bowled the Aussies out for 98 and ended the day 157 without loss.
While hopes of a repeat performance of that perfect day three years ago are a bit far off, England must use the game as the start of a new era.
Graeme Swann’s absence leaves a huge void in the bowling ranks, not just for Melbourne but for the long-term too.
While Monty Panesar is favourite to come in to the side, what price a start for Durham all-rounder Scott Borthwick, a surprise addition to the squad after Swann’s retirement?
A decent batsman, an outstanding fielder and crucially able to offer some mystery spin, Borthwick is surely seen as the long-term replacement for Swann.
And that’s the crux of the matter for England. Picking Panesar would probably offer the best chance of winning this Test match, but picking Borthwick may be best for the future.
Boss Andy Flower and captain Alastair Cook need to be thinking ahead to the busy summer of 2014 and even the return Ashes series in England a year later.
Those campaigns start now, and the selections should follow that.
Ben Stokes has inked his name into the first XI after his impressive performance at Perth and at just 22 he offers a glimpse of an exciting future.
The same stands with Steven Finn. He needs to be given a chance to find form again, because he is the man the attack has to be built around. He has to play.
But be careful of changing too much too soon. The Australians were forced to do that after the mass retirements of 2007 and it took them six years to recover.
Giving chances to two, maybe three bright young things in a squad otherwise packed with experience is probably, on balance, the right thing to do.
For the record, I would play Prior – he’s too good a player to completely jettison and Bairstow is nowhere near the standard – yet – of a first choice wicket-keeper.
But in giving Borthwick and Finn a chance to shine, England will strike the right balance of playing for now and looking ahead to the future.
England: A Cook, M Carberry, J Root, K Pietersen, I Bell, B Stokes, M Prior, S Borthwick, S Broad (T Bresnan if Broad isn’t fit), J Anderson, S Finn.