Australia may have won 5-0 on home soil when they last faced England in a Test series in 2013/14 but it is 14 years since they last tasted Ashes glory in Britain. Much of the build-up has focused on the vexed issue of 'sledging' or verbal abuse of opponents, which is something the International Cricket Council (ICC) are determined to eradicate from the sport.

That Ranjan Madugalle, the ICC's chief match referee, will be overseeing proceedings in Cardiff, suggests no let-up in the crackdown from the global governing body in what remains cricket's showpiece series.  Hard-hitting Australia opener David Warner, fined twice by the ICC in the last 18 months, is walking an especially fine line. (Related read: Warner lifts the lid on walkabout bar run-in with Root)

"I'm on my last warning (before possible suspension) from the ICC," Warner said last week. "These rules are being clamped down on now. "If you walk towards a player, the umpires are going to fine you."

- 'Over-hype the Ashes' -

But England director of cricket Andrew Strauss, a former Ashes-winning captain, stressed there was more to being competitive than 'mouthing off' at the opposition.

"I think we can over-hype an Ashes series, which maybe puts the players under more pressure to be really aggressive," Strauss told BBC Radio Five. "You can be very aggressive with the way you play, you don't necessarily need to do it, with the way you speak to the opposition."

For Australia captain Michael Clarke, winning an away Ashes series after three losing tours would fill a gap in his illustrious CV.

Meanwhile for England, in their first series under new Australian coach Trevor Bayliss, the challenge is to see if they can continue to play the aggressive brand of cricket that served them so well during their recent one-day series win over New Zealand -- the team that Australia beat in this year's World Cup final.

Strauss was confident series favourites Australia would not have things all their own way. "I think if Australia do win, they'll have to play some outstanding cricket to do so," he said.

Australia had several players who impressed during the 2013 Ashes in England, yet they still lost the series 3-0 and Strauss was clear on what both sides needed to do if they were to triumph this time.

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