Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Legend of Ashes

Currently Ashes are in the air. English and the Aussies are clashing for the title but what is the history lying beneth the oldest test series in Test cricket? The Legend lying beneath the Ashes....
The Ashes is a Test cricket series, played between England and Australia - it is international cricket's oldest and most celebrated rivalry dating back to 1882. It is currently played approximately biennially, alternately in England and Australia. The Ashes are "held" by the country which last won a series and to "regain" them the other country must win more Test matches in a series than the country that "holds" them. If a series is "drawn" then the country holding the Ashes retains them. The last Ashes series was played in England in 2005 when England regained The Ashes after a gap of 16 years by winning the series 2-1. The next Ashes series is going on presently and the next series will be played in England in 2009.
The first Test match between England and Australia had been played in 1877, but the Ashes legend dates back only to their ninth Test match, played in 1882.
On the 1882 tour, the Australians played only one Test, at The Oval in London. It was a low-scoring game on a difficult pitch. Australia made only 63 runs in their first innings, and England, led by A N Hornby, took a 38-run lead with a total of 101. In the second innings, Australia made 122, leaving England to score only 85 runs to win. Australian bowler Fred Spofforth refused to give in, declaring, "This thing can be done." He devastated the English batting, taking the final four wickets while conceding only two runs, to leave England a mere seven runs short of victory in one of the closest and most nail-biting finishes in cricket history.
When England's last batsman went in the team needed only 10 runs to win, but the final batsman Ted Peate scored only 2 before being bowled by Boyle. The astonished crowd fell silent, not believing that England could possibly have lost by 7 runs. When what had happened had sunk in, the crowd cheered the Australians.
The defeat was widely recorded in the English press. In the 31st August edition of a magazine called "Cricket: A Weekly Record of The Game" there appeared a now obscure mock obituary to "English Supremacy in the Cricket Field which expired on the 29th day of August at the Oval". Two days later, September 2, 1882 a second mock obituary, written by Reginald Brooks, appeared in The Sporting Times. This notice read as follows:
"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."
The English media fastened on to this notice and dubbed the English tour to Australia of 1882-83 as the quest to regain The Ashes of English Cricket. A small terracotta urn was presented to the England captain Ivo Bligh by a group of Melbourne women at some point during the 1882-83 tour. The contents of the urn are reputed to be the ashes of an item of cricket equipment, possibly a bail, ball or stump. The urn is not used as a trophy for the Ashes series, and whichever side "holds" the Ashes, the urn normally remains in the MCC Museum at Lord's because of its age and fragility. Since the 1998-99 Ashes series, a Waterford crystal trophy has been presented to the winners.

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