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Cricket - The Ashes


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The Ashes is a biennial Test cricket contest played between England and Australia . The series is named after the trophy, which is a small terracotta urn said to contain the burnt bails from a game played in 1882 at The Oval . An Ashes series typically consists of five Test matches, and the host of the series alternates between the two countries.

On the 1882 tour, the Australians played only one Test, at The Oval in London . It was a low-scoring game on a difficult pitch. Australia made only 63 runs in their first innings, and England, led by Monkey Hornby , took a 38-run lead with a total of 101. In the second innings, Australia made 122, leaving England to score only 85 runs to win . Australian bowler Fred Spofforth refused to give in, declaring, "This thing can be done". He devastated the English batting, taking the final four wickets while conceding only two runs, to leave England a mere seven runs short of victory in one of the closest and most nail-biting finishes in cricket history .

When England's last batsman went in the team needed only 10 runs to win, but the final batsman Peate scored only 2 before being bowled by Boyle. The astonished crowd fell silent, not believing that England could possibly have lost by 7 runs. When what had happened had sunk in the crowd cheered the Australians.

When Peate returned to the Pavilion he was reprimanded by the captain WG Grace for not allowing his partner at the wicket Charles Studd to get the runs. Despite Studd being one of the best batsman in England Peate replied, "I had no confidence in Mr Studd, sir, so thought I had better do my best."

The defeat was widely recorded in the English press, it was after all Australia's first victory on English soil, on August 29, 1882, a young London journalist, Reginald Shirley Brooks was inspired to write this mock “obituary''. It appeared in the Sporting Times:-

"In Affectionate Remembrance of ENGLISH CRICKET, which died at the Oval on 29th AUGUST, 1882, Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances R.I.P. N.B. — The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia."

The English media played up the subsequent tour to Australia in 1882/83 (which had been arranged before this defeat) as a quest to "regain the Ashes".

Before England's defeat at The Oval, by seven runs, arrangements had already been made for the Hon. Ivo Bligh, afterwards Lord Darnley, to lead a team to Australia. Three weeks later they set out, now with the popular objective of recovering the Ashes. In the event, Australia won the First Test by nine wickets, but with England winning the next two it became generally accepted that they had regained their pride.

A group of Victorian ladies headed by Lady Clarke burned what has variously been called a ball, bail or veil, and presented the resulting ashes to Bligh in an urn together with a velvet bag, which was made by Mrs Ann Fletcher, the daughter of Joseph Hines Clarke and Marion Wright, both of Dublin . She said, "What better way than to actually present the English captain with the very 'object' — albeit mythical — he had come to Australia to retrieve?"

Bligh later married another of these Melburnian ladies, Florence Morphy. When he died in 1927 his widow presented the urn to the Marylebone Cricket Club. The urn itself is made of terracotta and is about four inches (10  cm ) tall. A poem was presented to Bligh with the urn and appears on it.

When Ivo goes back with the urn, the urn;
Studds, Steel , Read and Tylecote return, return;
The welkin will ring loud,
The great crowd will feel proud,
Seeing Barlow and Bates with the urn, the urn;
And the rest coming home with the urn.

It can be seen in the cricket museum at Lord's, together with the velvet bag, made specially for it, and the scorecard of the 1882 match. It is never physically awarded to either England or Australia, but is kept permanently in the MCC Cricket Museum at Lord's Cricket Ground.

Interesting Links

Scorecard of the series - 1860 - 2005

This text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.


British Culture