Eoin Morgan admits his England team are on a learning curve, and still well short of the standard set by world champions Australia.
England's 59-run defeat at the Ageas Bowl means they are 1-0 down at the start of the Royal London Series, and have won three out of six so far as they seek to reinvent themselves as a one-day international force following their embarrassing World Cup exit last winter.
Captain Morgan, in charge then and now, is confident much progress has already been made but that more is needed to be regularly competitive against the likes of World Cup winners Australia.
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The tourists overcame a mid-innings wobble as Adil Rashid took their first four wickets to nonetheless finish with 305 for six - thanks to an unbroken century stand between Matthew Wade (71no) and Mitch Marsh (40no).
England were then unable to sustain their chase under lights, bowled out for 246 in 45.3 overs despite the good start Jason Roy (67) helped to give them with his maiden international 50.
Morgan said: "We can certainly improve. We are a long way off the world's best at the moment.
"We can learn a hell of a lot, and ultimately it comes down to individual skill."
He reiterated the observation he made before the start of this five-match series, that Australia are among the toughest opponents.
"They are a very strong side," he said.
"We'll have to play really well to beat them, and we didn't do enough here today.
"I think down the line this is going to be a big part of our learning curve.
"Probably in a year's time, we'll be expected to chase that down more often than not - especially with that sort of a start."
He made clear that the target set, after Australia had found themselves 193 for six at one stage, ought not necessarily have been beyond England.
"We got off to a fantastic start," Morgan added on Sky Sports 2.
"Alex Hales and Jason Roy set the tone early, and when we get off to a start like that we should be chasing down 305."
Asked if that total was above par, he said: "Absolutely not.
"I thought Australia defended the score pretty well.
"They put us under the pump, but I think we're a better side than that."
England must address their issues quickly in time for the second ODI at Lord's on Saturday.
"You can always do things differently," said Morgan.
"We'll look back at our plans and our execution of them and how they look on replays and stuff, and obviously try and improve then for Lord's.
"But certainly at the start of the game we would have taken that [Australia's] score.
"It is frustrating, but I don't want to take anything away from the way the guys play naturally.
"We've seen what they can do - we just want to see more of it.
"Today was an opportunity that's gone amiss, but we're certainly looking forward to Lord's."
Morgan's opposite number Steve Smith, at the start of his first series since succeeding Michael Clarke permanently as Australia's ODI captain, had more to smile about.
"It's nice to be on that side of the draw," he said.
"I thought the boys played really nicely tonight.
"We probably had a bit of a hiccup with the bat in the middle order - but Matthew Wade and Mitchell Marsh at the end there, to score 93 off the last 10, was an extremely good effort.
"I thought (the total) was around par. I thought we were going to have to bowl and field well - and we did tonight, so that was the most pleasing thing."
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