How It All Started “The Ashes” | History Of Ashes Series | Part 1

How It All Started “The Ashes” | History Of Ashes Series | Part 1
How It All Started “The Ashes” | History Of Ashes Series | Part 1
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The Ashes urn, made of terracotta and about 15 cm (6 inches) tall, is reputed to contain the ashes of a burnt cricket bail’s.

Test cricket series played between England and Australia. It is originated in an ironical obituary published in a British newspaper, The Sporting Times, immediately after Australia’s at The Oval in 1882, its first Test win on English soil. The obituary stated that English cricket had died, and “the body will be cremated, and the ashes taken to Australia”.

The mythical ashes immediately became associated with the 1882–83 series played in Australia before which the English captain Ivo Bligh had vowed to “regain those ashes”. The English media, therefore, labeled the tour the quest to regain the Ashes.

The Ashes Urn was never the official trophy of the Ashes series till the 1998–99 Ashes series, a Waterford Crystal representation of the Ashes urn (called the Ashes Trophy) has been presented to the winners of an Ashes series as the official trophy of that series. Irrespective of which side holds the tournament, the urn remains in the MCC Museum at Lord’s, it has however been taken to Australia to be put on touring display on two occasions: as part of the Australian Bicentenary celebrations in 1988, and to accompany the Ashes series in 2006–07.

Origin of Ashes:

The first Test between England and Australia was played in Melbourne, in 1877, though the Ashes started later, after five years when the ninth Test, played in 1882. On tour of England, Australians played just one Test, at the Oval in London. It was a low-scoring game on a difficult pitch. Australia made 63 runs in its first innings, and England took a 38-run lead with a total of 101.

In its second innings, Australia managed 122, which left England only 85 runs to win. The Australians were greatly demoralized by the manner of their second-innings collapse, but fast bowler Fred Spofforth, spurred on by the gamesmanship of his opponents, in particular, W. G. Grace, refused to give in.

“This thing can be done,” he declared. Spofforth went on to devastate the English batting, taking his final four wickets for only two runs to leave England just eight runs short of victory.

The defeat was widely recorded in the British press, which praised the Australians for their plentiful “pluck” and berated the Englishmen for their lack thereof. A celebrated poem appeared in Punch on Saturday, 9 September.

Well done, Cornstalks! Whipt us
Fair and square,
Was its luck that trip us?
Was it scare?
Kangaroo Land’s ‘Demon’, or our own
Want of ‘devil’, coolness, nerve, backbone?

On 31 August, in the Charles Alcock-edited magazine Cricket: A Weekly Record of The Game:


On 2 September a more celebrated mock obituary, written by Reginald Shirley Brooks, appeared in The Sporting Times. It read:

In Affectionate Remembrance
which died at the Oval
29 August 1882,
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing
friends and acquaintances


N.B.—The body will be cremated and the
ashes were taken to Australia.

Ivo Bligh promised that on 1882–83 tour of Australia, he would, as England’s captain, “recover those Ashes”. He spoke of them several times over the course of the tour, and the Australian media quickly caught on. The three-match series resulted in a two-one win to England, notwithstanding a fourth match, won by the Australians, whose status remains a matter of ardent dispute.

In the 20 years following Bligh’s campaign the term “the Ashes” largely disappeared from public use. There is no indication that this was the accepted name for the series, at least not in England. The term became popular again in Australia first, when George Giffen, in his memoirs (With Bat and Ball, 1899), used the term as if it were well known.

The true and global revitalization of interest in the concept dates from 1903 when Pelham Warner took a team to Australia with the promise that he would regain “the ashes”.

As had been the case on Bligh’s tour 20 years before, the Australian media latched fervently onto the term and, this time, it stuck. Having fulfilled his promise, Warner published a book entitled How We Recovered the Ashes.

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