The Ashes is a Test cricket series played between England and Australia. An Ashes series is traditionally of five Tests, hosted in turn by England and Australia at least once every four years. As of August 2015, England holds the Ashes, having won three of the five Tests in the 2015 Ashes series. Australia and England have won 32 series each and five series have been drawn.
History of ‘The Ashes’
The term ‘Ashes’ was first coined after England lost to Australia – for the first time on home soil – at The Oval on 29th August 1882.
A day later, the Sporting Times carried a satirical obituary of English cricket which concluded that: “The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia”. The concept caught the imagination of the sporting public.
A few weeks later, an English team, captained by the Hon. Ivo Bligh set off to tour Australia, with Bligh vowing to return with “the ashes”; his Australian counterpart, WL Murdoch, similarly vowed to defend them.
As well as playing three scheduled matches against the Australian national side, Bligh and the amateur players in his team participated in many social matches. It was after one such match, at the Rupertswood Estate outside Melbourne on Christmas Eve 1882, that Bligh was given the small terracotta urn as a symbol of the ashes that he had travelled to Australia to regain.
In February 1884, Bligh married his wife Florence. Shortly afterwards, they returned to England, taking the urn – which Bligh always regarded as a personal gift – with them. It stayed on the mantelpiece at the Bligh family home, until Bligh died, 43 years later.
At his request, Florence bequeathed the urn to MCC. Today, over 75 years on, the tiny, delicate and irreplaceable artefact resides in the MCC Museum at Lord’s. Each year, it is seen by tens of thousands of visitors, from all parts of the world on the famous Lord’s Tour.
In the 1990s – the MCC recognised the two teams’ desire to compete for an actual trophy and commissioned it after discussions with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia.
The urn-shaped Waterford Crystal trophy was first presented to Mark Taylor after his Australian side emerged triumphant in the 1998-99 Test series against England. Since then, the trophy has been presented to the winning captain at the end of each Test series between Australia and England.
From October 2006 to January 2007, the urn formed the centerpiece of the MCC Travelex Ashes Exhibition, which visited seven museums in six Australian states and attracted over 105,000 visitors.