The Ashes

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The Ashes

The Ashes is one of the most interesting series in cricket; in these matches, the men’s national teams of England and Australia meet in the Test format. The teams first met in 1882 in Australia. The last time the matches were held was in 2019. The next series will be held in 2021 and 2022.

The Ashes: the history of the name

The series has a rather interesting title history. In 1882, the first meeting of the teams remained with the Australians. On this occasion, the British newspaper “The Sporting Times” published an obituary in the style of satire. It said that English cricket has died and “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.” This phrase quickly became famous. The captain of the England national team, Ivo Bligh, reacted to the material, who promised to “regain those ashes”. As a result, the expression “The Ashes” has become closely associated with the debut series between Australia and England.

Then England managed to take revenge on the Australians. The fans of the Australian national team decided to continue playing the theme with The Ashes and gave Ivo Bligh a small urn. The urn contained a wooden bail. The girls offered the so-called ashes to the Australian cricket team as a gift. One of the donors was Florence Morphy, who ironically soon became Ivo’s wife. Ivo Bligh did not manage to make a bright career as an athlete. On the international stage, after a famous series in 1882 and 1883, he did not play again. However, this did not prevent him from becoming president of the Marylebone Cricket Club in 1900. In the same year, he succeeded his brother Edward as Earl of Darnley. As the holder of an Irish peerage, he automatically got the chance to become a member of the House of Lords.

Ivo Bligh died at the age of 68 in 1927. The eldest son Esme became the heir to all his titles. Widow Florence gave Marylebone Cricket Club the urn. There is still no exact data on whether it was the one that the Australian woman and her friends handed to the British at the end of the 19th century.

The Ashes: the history of the name

The Ashes: the prize

It is not known exactly when Ivo Bligh received a small urn from his future wife and her friends from Australia. In one of the last interviews, the cricketer said that he was awarded The Ashes in the autumn of 1882. However, as a prize for the winners of the series between Australia and England on a permanent basis, The Ashes began to be awarded many years later. Attempts to make The Ashes a trophy have been made several times. In 1904, the prize was awarded to the English captain Warner. In 1909, the prize was awarded to the Australian M. A. Noble. Once again, The Ashes was awarded to W. M. Woodfull as a prize in 1934.

In 1925, the following poem was published in the annual magazine “The Cricketers Annual”:

So here’s to Chapman, Hendren and Hobbs,

Gilligan, Woolley and Hearne

May they bring back to the Motherland,

The ashes which have no urn!

In 1933, a small urn appeared at the National Sporting Trophies Exhibition in London. Gradually, for cricket fans, this prize became a symbol of The Ashes. Since the 50s of the 20th century, the representation of the urn has been associated only with the cricket series between Australia and England. Since 1989, the prize can be seen during all series. Note that since 1929, a small urn in its original form has returned to Australia three times:

  • In 1988, for a Test match with England.
  • In 2006, the Ashes Exhibition was held in every state of Australia.
  • In 2019, the main trophy of The Ashes became part of the exhibition “Velvet, Iron, Ashes”, which was held at the State Library of Victoria.

The Ashes: the prize

The Ashes: the history

In 2019, the national teams of Australia and England held the 71st series of matches. For the sixth time in history, the teams parted in peace, winning two victories and finishing one match in a draw. Most often, five matches are played in the series, but it happened several times differently:

  • Only one meeting was held in 1887 and 1888.
  • The national teams played each other twice in 1886 and 1887.
  • There were three matches in the series in the 1882/83 season, the 1884 season, as well as in 1886, 1888, 1891/92, 1893, 1896, 1912.
  • The national teams played four matches each in 1938 and 1975.
  • The teams met six times each in the 1970/71 season, the 1974/75 season, the 1978/79 season, as well as in 1981, 1985, 1989 and 1993.

Until 1890, the British invariably won the series. The Australians managed to break the series of failures only in the season 1891/92. In 1893, the series turned out to be quite interesting. The teams drew twice, and one more match remained for the British. Then they won two more series. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, it was the turn of the Australians, who won four series in a row.

In the 1903/04 season, the British had to try to regain The Ashes. They lost two matches but won three. For the British, it was especially joyful that success was achieved on the Green Continent. In the first half of the 20th century, most of the series remained for the Australians:

  • From 1934 to 1951, they did not lose a single series (out of six). In one, however, a draw was recorded.

In the 60s of the 20th century, the leading bowlers of both teams finished their professional performances. The quality of matches was falling. At the same time, it was more difficult for the British, who did not win a single series during the designated decade (three of them were completed in a draw at once). Experts noted that the captains of the Australian national team Bob Simpson and Bill Lawry prefer a defensive model of the game. In the late 60s of the 20th century, there were fears that The Ashes would continue to exist. At this time, the West Indies national team began to perform well. The South African team showed good results, but it was soon banned from holding home matches because of the apartheid policy in this country for many years.

In the 1970/71 season, the British and Australians gave a very interesting series. The English national team won it twice, and four matches ended in a draw. In these matches, the Englishman Ray Illingworth, one of the now-famous cricket commentators, performed well.

From 1977 to 1987, the initiative in The Ashes was intercepted by the British. At first, Captain Mike Brearley played an important role in the team’s success. He was succeeded in this post by Ian Botham. At the same time, the British continued to remain a strong team. Soon, the Australians began to show their best side again. From 1989 to 2003, they consistently won. At this time, Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath, Ian Healy and Jason Gillespie shone among the representatives of the Green Continent.

The Ashes: the history

The Ashes: the latest series

Since 2005, there has been almost parity in the results of matches between the teams. Five series were won by the British; three were left for the Australians, one ended in a draw. It is noteworthy that if the England team usually won the fight, the Australians twice won against the opponent with a score of 5:0.

In 2019, the British became world champions in the Test format and hosted an opponent at Lord’s as part of The Ashes. It didn’t work out to win. The teams won two victories each, and the fifth match ended in a draw. Thus, The Ashes trophy remained with the Australians. The British will try to return the prize in December 2021 and January 2022, when the next series will take place.

At the moment, the statistics of personal meetings of teams contain the following figures:

  • In series: Australia has 33 wins, England has 32 wins, 6 draws.
  • In matches: Australia – 136 wins, England – 108 wins, draws – 91.

The Ashes in sports and culture

The popularity and longevity of the series in cricket contributed to the fact that such a name was given to tournaments both for other meetings between Australia and England and events independent of the opposition of these countries. Let’s denote the famous competitions:

  • The most famous name is “The Ashes” in rugby, where competitions in the league of the same name have been held since 1908 until now. The Australians proposed this name.
  • As part of The Australian rules football interstate carnival in the first half of the 20th century, the winners were awarded an urn as a trophy.
  • Until the 50s, football competitions were held between Australia and New Zealand under the name “The soccer ashes of Australasia”. Interestingly, in 1923, the captains of the teams left the ashes of cigars in the urn. This trophy was awarded to the winners.

In 1953, the film “The Final Test” was released. It contains footage from The 1953 Ashes series, in which the British won. Actor Jack Warner played one of the cricketers in this picture. The Ashes is mentioned in the comedy novel “Life”, “the Universe and Everything”, which Douglas Adams released. According to the scenario, Ashes was stolen by aliens. A famous trophy appears in the cricket world in the mini-series “Bodyline”. The films “The Lady Vanishes”, “Charters and Caldicot” show fans who plan to attend The Ashes matches.

If you want to tell your friends something interesting about cricket, then be sure to mention the famous series between the Australian and English national teams.

Nisha Bhavani
Author: Nisha Bhavani Position: Cricket Expert

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