When do the Ashes start, how can I watch them and who is going to win?

England cricketer Joe Root with the Ashes trophy before heading to Australia for the new series.
England cricketer Joe Root with the Ashes trophy before heading to Australia for the new series.

England's defence of cricket's Ashes begins overnight with the start of the first test in Australia.

Here's what you need to know about the latest series.

When do the Ashes start?

The first test begins at midnight British time on Thursday morning in Brisbane and continues until Monday. Each day's play is due to finish at around 7am our time.

Will this always be the case?

No. The series moves across time zones with the second test in Adelaide from December 2-6 beginning at 4am, Perth from December 14-18 at 2.30am, Melbourne from December 25-29 at 11.30pm and Sydney January 3-7 from 11.30pm.

How can I watch them?

Pay-per-view channel BTSport has the exclusive live rights for this series and will begin its coverage of the first day's play from 11pm on Thursday.

If you are a BT subscriber and don't fancy losing a night's sleep then a 90-minute "spoiler free" highlights package begins at 9am with repeats at selected times during the day.

So if I don't have a BT subscription then I can't even watch extended highlights?

Wrong. They are available for free via BTSport.com and the BT Sport app from 7pm.

What about while I'm travelling to work in the car?

BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and BBC Radio 4 long wave will have live coverage.

What about the Ashes themselves? Who is likely to win?

Strip away the usual pre-Ashes sledging and it's the home side who are 5/4 on favourites to regain the famous urn following England's victory in the last series.

Minus vice-captain Ben Stokes due to ongoing police proceedings and replacement Steve Finn through injury, the absence of any left-handed bowlers is also cited as a concern for a relatively inexperienced squad.

So it's an Australian whitewash, is it?

3/1 series outsiders England have not won the first test Down Under since their 1986-87 overall triumph so a Brisbane defeat while they acclimatise to conditions would be no surprise.

Clever money at 4/1,however, might be on a series draw with England retaining the Ashes. Step forward Durham's own Mr Stokes after his legal affairs are sorted to score the winning runs in Sydney?