England cricket
England will need their skipper, Alistair Cook to fire on all cylinders against Australia.Reuters

The build up for the most iconic Ashes Test series between England and Australia has been as expected, and with the first Test set to be played at Cardiff on Wednesday, things cannot get any better in the longest format of the game.

The rivalry between the two cricket nations is pinnacle of world cricket.

Critics may have several doubts about the existence of Test cricket in the near future, but it is such series, which raises hopes of millions of Test cricket fans all around the world. The Ashes series can be considered as an ambassador of Test cricket.

Expect a fiery contest between these two arch rivals, who are scheduled to go head to head against one another for the next few months.

Of late, it is the English team, which has been majorly successful in the Ashes, winning four out of the six series, but the last Ashes was comfortably won by Australia, 5-0.

Australia might dream of a similar margin of victory, but the hosts are a strong side and in their last series against the touring New Zealand, they showed that they are ready for the challenge, playing an aggressive brand of cricket.

The cricket world sat up and took notice for the quality of cricket, which was on the offing. A similar quality of cricket is expected during the Ashes as well.

Coming to the first Test, there is not much to choose between the two nations. England have somewhat regained their form and will provide a tough time to the Australian side.

The Australians look a solid team, where David Warner and Steve Smith will be the key batsmen for the Aussies. With the form Smith has shown of late, there is plenty to look forward to against the English bowlers, who will consider Warner's and Smith's wicket as a prize scalp.

Michael Clarke and Shane Watson are expected to provide the much needed experience in the middle order for Australia. But the real test for the Australian team is the manner in which they are going to handle James Anderson and Stuart Broad upfront.

The English team are going to depend on the services of Anderson and Broad, who need to pick early wickets. With the pitch at Cardiff said to be green, these English bowlers with their lethal swing can make the ball talk.

Australian skipper, Michael Clarke was surprised to see so much grass in the pitch.

"It's got a lot of grass on it. It's surprising how much grass is on it," Espn Cricinfo quoted Clarke as saying.

"So I think if it stays that way it's going to be interesting to see how it plays. I think it'll come down to what England are after. If they're worried about spin bowling, they'll leave more grass on it. If they're worried about pace, it'll have a bit more moisture in it.

"From what I'm see today and what the groundsman's telling me, I think we're going to see some sideways movement from the fast bowlers."

The Australians, on the other hand, also have a solid bowling line up, which includes Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. They too can exploit such conditions.

With Alistair Cook having shown some decent form in the last Test series against New Zealand, the skipper has to provide a solid start. Cook scored more than 300 runs in the two Test match series against the Black Caps.

More than that, the strong looking middle order of the English team could prove to be the difference between two sides.

Ian Bell, Joe Root and Ben Stokes hold key for England in the middle order. A number of good things may have been said and written about Joe Root and rightly so, as his performance on the field speaks for itself.

Root averages above fifty in Test cricket, but this Ashes is going to test his skills to the hilt. Will he be able to handle the pressure of such a prestigious series?

The Australians have been known for their on field antics, primarily sledging and they will not shy away from using this tool against the English team and especially on youngsters such as Joe Root, who needs to mentally tough for such a series.

All such ingredients makes the Ashes one of the most awaited series by cricket fans all around the world.

Where to Watch Live

The first Test match of the highly anticipated Ashes series between England and Australia is scheduled for 11am local start (3:30pm IST, 6am ET, 7:30pm AEST) with live TV coverage in India on Star Sports 1/HD with live streaming on starsports.com.

Viewers in the UK can watch the first Test live on Sky Sports 2 with live streaming on Watch Sky Sports and Sky Go, while Australian viewers can catch the action live on Nine Network and live streaming is available on CA website.

Viewers in the US can watch the Ashes live in TV on One World Sports with live streaming on Watch ESPN.