Cricket Guide | What are The Ashes?

The Ashes

Every four years, the England cricket team welcome old foes Australia to English shores, fiercely battling to win the historic Ashes over the course of five test-matches. It is almost trivial that after six weeks, either of the winning captains (Joe Root or Tim Paine) will be lifting one of the most famous yet understated trophies in sport. The Ashes, encased in an small urn stands just 15cm tall, but the significance of them cannot be questioned. Cricket’s oldest prize, origins of The Ashes date back to 1883 when the series between the two nations officially began.

But what exactly are the ashes that sit inside the urn based at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London? Playfinder will tell you everything you need to know as we build up to another highly anticipated series starting at Edgbaston on Thursday.

The Origins

The story begins in 1882 when England welcomed Australia to The Oval in a match the hosts ultimately lost, losing the series in the process. The defeat was a sore one, being the first time ever England had lost at home to the Aussies. The media had plenty to say about the upset and it was The Sporting Times – a weekly newspaper (no longer in circulation) – that created the whole concept of The Ashes through nothing more than a mocking obituary headline, which read;

“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.”

This was the first time ‘The Ashes’ had been mentioned, and was the beginning of one of the most fierce sporting rivalries to this modern day. The following series, when England travelled to Australia, was dubbed as ‘the quest to regain The Ashes’. A phrase which is still used today when a team attempts to win back the urn.

The three-test series began on 30th December 1882, with Australia winning the game by 9 wickets. However, England fought back to win the next two matches by convincing margins and win the official series. There are a number of different stories which detail the events following, however, one of the most recognised is that after the third match, England captain Ivo Bligh was handed a terracotta urn containing what is generally believed to be the ashes of a burnt cricket bail. There is some doubt concerning the actual contents, with some of  the opinion the ashes may be from a cricket stump, ball, or a women’s veil. The truth is unlikely to be uncovered for definite, but certainly adds a sense of mystery surrounding the urn.

The Modern Day

Ivo Bligh (who later became Lord Darnley) returned to England with the mysterious ashes, which stayed with him until his death in 1927. They were then delivered to the historic ground of Lord’s by his daughter, where they have almost exclusively remained for 92 years. They have been moved on a few occasions as part of various exhibitions, but they’re home is very much recognised as the Lord’s Cricket Museum. The trophy presented to winning captains nowadays is a replica, with, unsurprisingly, no real ashes inside!

The latest instalment of Ashes cricket will be the 71st series between England and Australia. To this date, Australia have claimed the urn on 33 occasions, England on 32 occasions with five remaining draws. The hosts go into the series as slight favourites, however, there are questions surrounding England’s top-order and whether there will be a ‘World Cup hangover’ after the adulation received for the mentally draining, yet stunning victory over New Zealand just a matter of weeks ago.

Has learning about the history of The Ashes given you the urge to get back in the nets? Check out the cricket facilities Playfinder offer here.

Image credit

Feature Image: "The Ashes Trent Bridge 2015" by Airwolfhound
Header Image: "Shaun Pollock bowls to Michael Hussey" by Thugchildz