The Ashes is the most famous and for England’s and Australia’s national cricket teams the most important Test cricket series. It is played between the two countries since 1882, currently every two years. But since cricket is played during the summer and the two countries are in opposite hemispheres, The Ashes series is played after 18 or 30 months, depending on which of both countries is hosting the event. The tournament is played alternately in England and Australia, usually at five different grounds. Every series consists of five Test matches with two innings. If it is drawn, The Ashes stays with the current holder.
The Story Behind ‘The Ashes’
The Test cricket series that is played between England and Australia got its name after an article that occurred in The Sporting Times after the English team lost to Australia at home in 1882. The article said that cricket in England had died, that the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. When the English team went on tour in Australia in 1882-83, the media said they are going to take back The Ashes.
The Urn as an Unofficial Trophy
During the 1882-83 English tour in Australia, the captain of the team Ivo Blight was presented a small urn that supposedly held the ashes of a cricket ball. There are some conflicting information about the small terracotta urn that became an unofficial trophy of The Ashes series. According to the most commonly accepted version, it was presented to Blight by a group of Victorian women as a gift after the victory in the Third Test in 1883. But according to the latest research, it was presented at a private match that was played on Christmas in 1882.
Whichever is the truth, the urn became closely associated with the series and it is customary for the winner of The Ashes to raise a replica of the urn. In contrary to the popular belief, the original 19th century urn was never used in the series. Instead, it is displayed at the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum at Lord’s since Blight’s death. But it inspired the official Ashes trophy (made by Waterford Crystal) that is presented to the winner since the 1998-99 series.
England and Australia have played 66 Ashes series to this day. Australia won 31 series, while England won 30 times. Of five drawn series, Australia retained The Ashes four times and England once. England is the holder of The Ashes since 2009 and will also host the next series in 2013.