Ian Bell says the Ashes will remain the most important series in the respective international calendars of England and Australia, regardless of the strength of other sides around the world.
England and Australia begin the latest instalment of their historic rivalry on Wednesday at Trent Bridge, with the hosts favourites to retain the urn after successive Ashes series victories.
Alastair Cook's side triumphed down under for the first time in 26 years in the last meeting between the two sides, while England have since recorded an arguably more impressive triumph away to India.
Bell was a member of both of those victorious teams, and believes the Ashes still represents the pinnacle of the sport for the players of England and Australia.
"I think the players of both sides would agree that this is still the biggest Test series we play in," Bell said in his column for ESPNCricInfo.
"Winning in India was huge, but the Ashes is still special."
Australia's lack of experience along with their poor form in recent months has reinforced England's position as pre-series favourites, but Bell expects a tough Ashes against a side possessing some exciting young bowlers.
"It would be foolish for anyone to write off any Australian team," he added.
"They have a good bowling attack and, with the Dukes ball, should be able to swing it all day. I expect it to be a tough series."
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