The Australia Test cricket squad arrived in Britain on Thursday (18 June) to prepare for the Ashes series against England.
The first of five Tests takes place in Cardiff, Wales, on 8 July, with the final one starting on 20 August. The demands of international match schedules meant the last two Ashes series were played in 2013, with England retaining the trophy in the first. However, a substantial loss of form led to Australia winning the second one 5-0 on their home turf.
The England teams in all forms of cricket struggled for performance after that but there have been signs of a resurgence, especially as new coach Trevor Bayliss previously held the role for New South Wales and Sri Lanka.
Ive said for a long time I think England have a very strong team, said Australia captain Michael Clarke at a news conference after training in Watford on Sunday (21 June).
Theyve got a lot of talent and they love playing in their own conditions so we are expecting a very tough series against a team that will come out quite hard against us. And if they try to play that positive brand then we will be prepared for that.
But I think the most important is that you got a team that has plenty of players who are in form with plenty of cricket under their belt, playing conditions that they are very accustomed to against a team that is very excited to be back in England and looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead.
Clarke ready to end England hoodoo
Australia have not won an Ashes series in England since 2001 and Clarke is hoping to revise that. Thats probably our greatest challenge as a team to be honest, the captain said. Obviously I havent won in England in my career in the test matches, and this team hasnt had that success so we have played some very good cricket together especially in Australia.
And I have spoken a lot about us trying to be more consistent away from home. So we played well against the West Indies, it was nice to win those two test matches, and we have got a huge challenge now with these five tests.
Clarke said he believed the Ashes series would be played in the correct spirit, even if some players come close to crossing a line. Personal abuse, or sledging, has often played a part in matches between the sports two oldest rivals but it is more under the spotlight as umpires are being encouraged to take steps to stop it.
Im confident it will be played in the right spirit, Clarke said. I think on the field both teams will play hard. I know I probably say this every series, but we respect there is a line you cannot cross. Both teams might headbutt that line but I am confident we will not overstep that mark.
Australia have just returned from a Caribbean tour against the West Indies and will play four-day warm-up matches against Kent, starting on 25 June, and then Essex, before the first Test in Cardiff.