The Ashes Test Series is a round of 5 test matches played between the English and the Australian cricket teams at least once every two years. England and Australia alternatively host Cricket’s most celebrated and watched rivalry series in their respective home soils.
So far, 71 Ashes series have been played with Australia taking the lead by winning 33 of them, while England is close behind having won 32 series; six rounds have been drawn. The current champions are England after a stunning victory duly credited to Ben Stokes.
The term ‘Ashes’ came into use after Australia defeated England way back in 1882, for the first time on their home soil, at The Oval. To remind the general public of this humiliating and shameful incident, The Sporting Times, a recent British newspaper, published a satirical obituary.
The words in the obituary stated that English cricket had died, and to quote “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia”. This did not sit well with the English Cricket Team who went on to win the next eight consecutive series, during which they lost only 4 out of the 22 matches played.
During one of these tours, an English team captained by Hon Ivo Bligh went to Australia for the series. Interestingly, while Captain Bligh had promised to return with ‘the metaphorical Ashes’ of English cricket, his Australian equivalent, WL Murdoch, vowed to defend it with everything.
As well as playing three scheduled matches against the Australian national side, Bligh and the amateur players in his team participated in many social competitions. It was after one such game that Bligh X was gifted the small terracotta run by a group of Melbourne women, one among them his future wife, as a symbol of the ashes that he had travelled to Australia to regain.
The contents of the gifted urn are rumoured to be the ashes of a few wooden bails and were humorously described as “the ashes of Australian cricket”, something that the English team managed to achieve with its unbeaten streaks of wins.
The tradition has followed since with the winning team being rewarded with a replica of the urn. The original container, presented to Captain Bligh, was with him for 43 years as a personal gift, following which it was bequeathed to the Marylebone Cricket Club (henceforth referred to as MCC) after his death
In the 1990s, both the English and the Australian national sides expressed their desire to compete for an actual trophy. Recognising this desire, the MCC commissioned an urn-shaped Waterford Crystal trophy.
This new trophy that paid homage to the original urn was first presented to Mark Taylor after his Australian side defeated the English in the 1998-99 Test series. Further, from October 2006 to January 2007, the urn was the centrepiece of the MCC Travelex Ashes Exhibition, which was displayed in over seven museums across six Australian states, attracting a whopping 105,000 visitors. This was the last time the urn left the Lord’s Cricket Stadium.
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