Its name originated in a mock obituary published by The Sporting Times immediately after Australia’s victory at The Oval in 1882. It was Australia’s first test win on English soil. The response? The death of English cricket apparently, but also the birth of the most celebrated Test series in cricket history.
Origins and Obituaries
The first test match between Australia and England took place in Melbourne, Australia in 1877. However, it wasn’t until eight
more tests later that the Ashes legend began. Whilst on their British tour, the Australians played one test at The Oval, London and after scoring a mere 63 runs in its first innings, England took the lead in the match by putting 101 on the board. Australia then improved on their 63 to post 122 and England needed just 85 runs to win on home-turf. Seemed possible right? Wrong. Australia’s fast bowler Fred Spofforth devastated England and took his final four wickets for only two runs. England’s last batman needed to score just ten runs to win however only managed two before being bowled. The Oval fell silent - England had lost on home soil by 7 runs.
The defeat was one that was widely recorded by media and press. The Sporting Times published a mock death notice for cricket on 2 September. It read:
In Affectionate Remembrance of ENGLISH CRICKET, which died at the Oval on 29 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.
England Return with an Urn
A few weeks later, Hon Ivo Bligh (later Lord Darnley) captained England and set off to tour Australia. After realising that ‘The Ashes’ concept caught the imagination of the sporting public, Bligh vowed to return with them. Australia vowed to defend them. Game on.
After three scheduled matches and many social matches against the Australian national side, Bligh was given a small terracotta urn as a symbol of the ashes and his travels to Australia to bring them home.
Over 100 years on, the tiny, delicate and irreplaceable artefact resides in the MCC museum at Lord’s, London.
Rivalry and Results
Since 1883, 330 tests and 70 series have been played. Australia are the current holders of the Ashes after beating England 4-0 back in 2017/18, but England have won five of the last eight series’ including a rare away triumph in 2010/11.
England’s 2-1 series win in 2005 stands out as one of the greatest series’ ever in terms of drama and was the first time that England had defeated their arch rivals in an Ashes series since 1986, with Australia winning eight in a row between them. Since the tables have turned somewhat with England having not lost a home series to the Aussies since 2001, indicating that they currently have the edge since the turn of the century.
Across the entire history of this famous battle, there is very little to separate the two nations. Australia have won 33 series to England’s 32 with five drawn. It’s interesting to note that both teams have won just over half of the series’ on home soil, whereas away from home both teams have claimed 14 series wins or 40% of all historic series’.
It’s fair to say that this year’s Ashes series could be iconic, especially after England’s recent fairytale triumph over New Zealand (and convincing semi-final win over Australia) to be crowned as World Cup champions in the ODI format. Will the urn return to home turf again to complete what would be considered as England’s greatest year of the sport ever?
Predictions for the 2019 series
England have the chance to draw level on series wins with Australia. Today, another episode of the greatest series in cricket begins at Edgbaston.
Most of our hospitality guests seem to think that England will come up on top...
as well as Daily Mirror’s Dean Wilson…