ONE-DAY stalwart Paul Collingwood admits England are behind schedule as they begin their final preparations for the World Cup.
With the World Cup starting in March, Michael Vaughan's side have just the Commonwealth Bank Series - which they open against hosts Australia at the MCG tomorrow - to find answers to recent failings.
England would have hoped to enter this triangular tournament with a settled squad built over the past four years but instead they are likely to hand one-day international debuts to spinner Monty Panesar and wicketkeeper Paul Nixon as they seek a formula to halt a woeful one-day run.
Injuries and unavailability have rocked the limited-overs set-up over the past 18 months, a period in which England have won just half-a-dozen of their past 25 completed matches against Test-class opposition and slipped to eighth in the official rankings.
Neither are Australia, in their current mood, the team to be facing when in search of a morale-boosting victory.
Collingwood said: "We are further behind than what we would like to be this time around, certainly, because of the defeats and run of form we have had in one-day cricket.
"You need confidence and belief to be as high as possible to go out and win World Cups.
"But one-day cricket is a funny game, you can get one win under your belt and suddenly feel you are invincible."
Despite his admission that England could be under-prepared, the Durham all-rounder remains confident that his team can reverse their fortunes in the limited-overs game.
"We have some great players in the side, we all know that, we just need to get firing and firing quickly.
"If we can do that we can go much higher in the rankings and we all still believe in that dressing room we can be a force in the World Cup.
"We are a dark horse, no-one would expect too much from us but if we can get firing we will be in contention.
"The winning needs to start pretty soon. Going into the World Cup you don't want to do so on the back of loads of losses."
Victories are more likely to be obtained against the third party in the triangular series, New Zealand, but Collingwood believes strong individual performances could see the dominant Australian's toppled.
Collingwood, 30, said: "We obviously have to try to change the momentum in some way. "Obviously the lads are disappointed after the Test matches but it is kind of a new beginning for us with the one-dayers coming up.
"Sometimes it only takes one big performance from a player, a hundred or a four or five wickets from a bowler, a special catch and these things can turn games. Certainly if we can get a win at the MCG and start off well it could shift the way the momentum has been going."
Michael Vaughan's return as captain in place of Andrew Flintoff has given the touring party a fresh outlook and his lauded leadership style could prove a welcome boost to the tour for both the players and coach Duncan Fletcher.
With a review of the Ashes whitewash due by the England and Wales Cricket Board in the near future, further defeats may be damaging to reputations.