Sydney: The build up to the Ashes series begins in earnest this weekend, with Australia flying to England, though they play the Natwest tri-series before the Test matches.Such is the acrimony between the two teams that Steve Waugh has openly opposed the idea of an Englishman, Graham Thrope, playing for new South Wales next season.But Waugh is gone, and Ricky Ponting's captaincy is a little different. He insists on being nice to the opponents."You know they are the number two ranked team in Test cricket and thoroughly deserve that ranking. They've beaten everyone they have come up against over the last almost two years, and so, they thoroughly deserve that ranking," said Ricky Ponting, Captain, Australian team."We know they are a good side and they've got some slightly different personnel than we have been used to playing in the last few Ashes series, so there is a great challenge there for us. A lot of our players have been there and done it all before but we have to really lift ourselves again for this Ashes series," he added. The Ashes' favouriteTactics apart, Australia is indeed the favourite since they have held the Ashes since 1989. Three years ago they wrapped up the series on the third day of the third Test in Australia. But the team is giving the opponent team its due. "They (Englishmen) are bowling very well. Harmison bowls with pace and bounce. Hoggard swings the ball a lot and Andrew Flintoff hits the track really hard and has the added bow of being a top line batsman as well," said Jason Gillespie of the Australian team "And Simon Jones has got pace and bowls very well with the old ball so, look they have got a pretty formidable line-up and our batters are going to have to work pretty hard to get on top of them," he added. The new Australian team seems to be following the trend perhaps started when Adam Gilchrist was captain in India last year.But the same generosity is not to be expected on the field. Australia's first game will be a 20/20 game against England on June 13, followed by the tri-series, which also involves Bangladesh.And, the first Ashes Test finally starts on July 21.