England take on Australia at Trent Bridge tomorrow in the first test of the 2013 Ashes series, the latest instalment in cricket's oldest sporting rivalry.
The home side go into the match as strong favourites, with legendary former player Sir Ian Botham predicting Alastair Cook's team will complete a 10-0 whitewash in the back-to-back home-and-away series which conclude in Australia in January.
However the Australians, buoyed by the replacement of Mickey Arthur with Darren Lehmann as coach, will be confident of springing a surprise at a ground likely to assist their highly-rated fast bowlers.
Although England's battery of quick bowlers destroyed Australia in the previous series between the teams, visiting captain Michael Clarke now boasts a potent pace attack of his own, spearheaded by the tyros James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc.
Peter Siddle, who took a hat-trick on the opening day of the last Ashes series, will provide more than capable support, while veteran all-rounder Shane Watson and wily spinner Nathan Lyon will offer dependable back-up.
England will still feel they possess a marginally stronger attack, with James Anderson and Stuart Broad sharing the new ball. Tim Bresnan, who has an exceptional record at Trent Bridge, could take the third seamer's slot in place of Steven Finn, although the latter's height and pace may sway the hosts' selectors.
In the batting department England will feel they hold a significant advantage over Australia, and hope this edge proves decisive.
England's top five boast 57 centuries between them, and are backed up by the redoutable wicket-keeper Matt Prior. In contrast Australia's battling has been riddled with inconsistency and selectorial tinkering; the selectors felt compelled to call up Chris Rogers, a 35-year-old with just one previous test appearance behind him, to the Ashes squad, and he is likely to open alongside Watson, who flew home from the recent India tour in disgrace after the high-profile 'homework' episode.
Cook and Clarke may face a tough decision should they win the toss tomorrow. The warm and sunny weather forecast for Nottingham tomorrow is likely to sap the quick bowlers, and reports suggest the pitch is firm and dry, conditions which invariably compel captains to bat first if the coin comes down their way.
However, Trent Bridge invariably swings, and both captains will back their fast bowlers to inflict early damage if there is any lateral movement.
The opening exchanges of an Ashes series usually produce high drama - be it Slater's coruscating first-ball boundary in 1994, Harmison's booming wide in 2006, the brutal thunderbolt which bloodied Ricky Ponting in 2005 or that hat-trick by Siddle three years ago. Whatever happens tomorrow, further fireworks are a certainty.
Where to watch live (and listen)
Catch ball-by-ball coverage on Sky Sports Ashes HD. Coverage will begin at 10am, a full hour before the first ball, featuring astute tactical previews from Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain and boozy anecdotes of past Ashes contests from messieurs Botham and Shane Warne.
If you have no access to satellite television, or prefer the prospect of soaking up the sun in your back garden while listening to the radio, Test Match Special is available on Radio 4 LW and BBC Radio 5Live Sports Extra on air from 10.25. Coverage will be anchored by Jonathan Agnew and Henry Blofeld.