England will start the series as favourites, and justifiably so. They have a strong and well-balanced side with a menacing seam bowling attack, and batting run machines in Alister Cook and Jonathan Trott.
Australia is very much the underdog. It will be interesting to see how our West Island neighbours perform under new coach Darren Lehmann, and with skipper Michael Clarke fit again.
Over at Cricinfo, George Dobell previews the series:
It says much about the enduring appeal of the Ashes that, at a time of economic pressures, at a time when Test cricket's popularity is waning in many parts of the world and at time when neither team can claim to be the best in the world, just about every day of this series will be played in front of full houses and to vast audiences on TV, on the radio and on the internet.Whatever the economic importance of series against India and the ranking importance of series against South Africa, the vast majority of players on both sides will have grown up dreaming of playing in the Ashes. Rightly or wrongly, it is performances in such series that continue to disproportionately define the careers of players and coaches. The UK government reacted to England's Ashes success in 2005 by bestowing MBEs on the whole team; no other series would have generated such rewards.The ICC rankings were designed to provide context and interest to Test series that were struggling to capture the public imagination. The Ashes doesn't need such marketing strategies. Like Christmas and the NHS, familiarity may have bred a parasitical side-industry, but it has not bred contempt.Conventional wisdom suggests that Australia, unburdened by expectation, go into the series without pressure. It is nonsense. The sacking of Mickey Arthur and Robbie Deans - the Australia cricket and rugby coaches - within the last few weeks suggests Australia are not so sanguine about sporting failure as some might like to suggest.Darren Lehmann might survive an early failure, but some of the players will not. England supporters, by contrast, were weaned on unrealistic expectations and put to bed by disillusionment. They are familiar in dealing with the sting of disappointment.
This should be a terrific series, but we are predicting that England will win the five-match series 3-0 and retain the famous urn ahead of the return series in the Australian summer. But there will be dramas and surprises along the way.
Play commences at 10pm tonight (NZ time) and we will definitely be watching the first session. It should be cricket at its finest, although it would be much better if this bloke was allowed in to Trent Bridge.