Test Cricket – The Ashes

Test Cricket – The Ashes

Few sporting rivalries evoke as much passion among fans as The Ashes cricket series between England and Australia does. It is a storied rivalry that goes back nearly 130 years to 1882 when Australia beat England in a Test match at the Oval cricket ground.

The match marked the first time that an Australian cricket team had beaten the British in a Test match on their home soil. The loss provoked bitter lamentations in the local media about the demise of English cricket, especially because the Australian team had also won four out of seven preliminary games in the run-up to the Test match at the Oval.

British newspaper, The Sporting Times, ran a satirical obituary mourning the death of English cricket and noted how the body would be cremated and the ashes sent to Australia with the returning Aussie team. When England toured Australia in 1882-1883, the English media promptly labelled the series as a quest to regain The Ashes, and a legend was born.

During the tour of 1882-1883, an Australian lady named Annie Fletcher from a suburb of Sydney presented visiting English captain Francis Bligh with a velvet bag for storing the imaginary Ashes of English cricket and for taking it back to England after the series.

Later during the same tour, a group of women from Melbourne who saw Fletchers bag decided that something grander was needed. So, they presented Bligh with a fancy silver urn containing the ashes of what is believed, to have been either a cricket stump or a cricket ball. The English team won that series and The Ashes were presented to members of the Lords Cricket Ground in England. They were later returned to Bligh who kept it in his possession until his death in 1927.

Following Blighs demise, the urn containing The Ashes was gifted by Blighs widow to the Marylebone Cricket Club which has kept it on permanent display ever since.

Despite popular perception, the actual urn containing The Ashes has never been presented as an award to the winning team in a cricket series between England and Australia. Winning teams have often held up replicas of the urn. Since 1998-99, a crystal replica of the original urn has been handed to the winner of The Ashes.

Over the decades, The Ashes series has been a source of endless rivalry between cricketing fans from England and Australia. At times it has even led to political tensions between the two nations. In 1932-33 for instance, Englands use of a controversial bowling technique dubbed Bodyline Bowling to rein in Australian batting prodigy Donald Bradman, required high-level diplomatic meetings between the two nations to resolve. That series prompted a change in cricket laws to ban Bodyline tactics.

The Ashes series today is played every two years with both countries hosting it on an alternating basis.

As of 2009, a total of 65 Ashes Test series representing a total of 305 individual Test matches have been played between England and Australia. Out of this, the Aussies have won 31 of the Series while the English have won 29. A total of 5 Test series were drawn.

Both sides have tended to do better when playing in their own countries, with Australia claiming 17 of its 31 series victories at home, while 16 out of Englands 29 series wins have been in England.

The current holder of The Ashes is England which won the last series 2-1 with two of the test matches being drawn. The next Ashes series is scheduled to begin on November 25.

Read great Ashes trivia on The Ashes cricket series facts infographic… who is the fastest scorer? Scored the most ducks? Who drank the most beers of the flight to England?

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