Australia captain Michael Clarke has told his side it is time to deliver as the Ashes hype finally gives way to the real thing.

Ever since arriving in England ahead of the Champions Trophy in May, the quest to regain the famous urn has been the hot topic of conversation.

Even during that competition, Clarke's 50-over stand-in George Bailey was fielding questions about the Ashes, despite the fact that he was one of a handful of players not staying on for the Test series.

But after a seemingly endless cycle of conjecture, prediction and debate the cricket gets under way at Trent Bridge this morning and that is just how Clarke likes it.

"We've talked about a lot but I think the talking is done for us as a team now," he said.

"Our preparation is finished. Our team meetings are done. Our knowledge on the England team is done. Now, as I said to the guys, it's not what you say, it's what you do.

"I get excited about any game I'm lucky enough to represent Australia in. As an Australian Test cricketer, to have the opportunity to come and play in England is very special."

Clarke is a rare thing in recent years - an Australian captain coming to England with his side ranked as outsiders.

But with the hosts having taken the previous two series between the sides, it is a position he has come to accept.

"I've said for a while now that we come here as underdogs - there's no doubt about that - but that hasn't affected our preparation and it won't affect our performance either," he said.

"I've heard it my whole career, especially since taking over the captaincy. And when I first came into the Australia team I heard it the other way, so I've probably seen both sides of the spectrum. All you can do as a player is prepare as well as you can and go out there and give your best. The results will take care of themselves.

"We're looking forward to a tough series; we know it's going to be tough but I know our boys are up to the challenge."

From the outside Australia's time in England has not exactly been a roaring success so far, with a winless exit from the Champions Trophy, David Warner being disciplined for punching Joe Root in a bar and the sacking of coach Mickey Arthur all coming since their arrival on these shores.

Clarke, though, surprisingly declared himself delighted with the tourists' preparations.

"In regards to what's happened so far on this tour I couldn't ask for anything more from the players. Now it's about going and reaping the rewards," he said.

"Winning the series would be a great achievement. It would be a reward for the hard work that we've put in.

"All I can ask for, as a playing group, is to make sure you prepare as well as you possibly can and I think every single one of the boys has done that."