The Ashes, the Test cricket series between England and Australia, begins again this week, renewing one of the most heated rivalries in any sport. In the United States, baseball has the Red Sox and Yankees, college football has Michigan vs. Ohio State, hockey has the Bruins and the Canadiens. In European soccer, Barcelona vs. Real Madrid may be the most intense rivalry.
But in cricket, which is dominated not by clubs or colleges but by nations facing each other in five-day Test matches — the longest playing time of any game in any professional sport — the England vs. Australia rivalry has no peer. The only possible competition may come from India vs. Pakistan, but that's another story.
The Ashes also has another unique feature — the two teams play not only for bragging rights, but for the smallest trophy in sports. The replica "urn" supposedly containing the "ashes" of cricket — which is said to have died the first time Australia defeated England in England, in 1882 — is kept by whichever country has won the five-Test series most recently.
In the above photo, Australian bowler Nathan Lyon, with his daughter, shows off the tiny trophy.
Currently, Australia holds the Ashes by virtue of a 5-0 whitewash in the 2014 edition, played on Australian soil.
But the last three times the Ashes have been played in England, the home team has emerged victorious each time, with England winning eight of those 15 games, to only two for Australia, with the other five matches ending in draws.
This time around Australia comes to England as the number two Test nation in the ICC rankings, behind South Africa, a team that has not yet played a Test match this year. The Australia side traveled to West Indies to play two Tests in May, winning both in dominant fashion.
Australia will field largely the same side that now rules the one-day cricket world, after their World Cup victory in March, led by the intimidating pair of left-arm fast bowlers, the "Mitches," Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc.
England has played five Test matches already in 2015, winning one, losing one, and drawing one in West Indies, then splitting a spirited two-Test series against New Zealand in England in June.
England Captain Alastair Cook became the country's all-time leading Test run scorer during the New Zealand series, and will be expected to spearhead England's batting attack in the Ashes this time around.
The Ashes opens onWednesday, July 8, with day one of the First Test, to be played at Sophia Gardens SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. The next four Tests in the 2015 Ashes series are set for Lord's in London — the most hallowed ground in world cricket — followed by County Ground in Derby, Edgbaston, in Birmingham, Trent Bridge in Nottingham, and winding up with the Fifth Test back in London at Kensington Oval.
Check back with the Inquisitr for information on how to watch every match of the 2015 England vs, Australia Ashes Test cricket series live online in the United States.
[Image: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images]