The Australia-England rivalry is the oldest and the most iconic cricket rivalries of all and the cricket series between these two nations is famously known as the Ashes. But do you know how the series was given the name- ‘Ashes’?
Let us see how the story unfolded:
In 1882, Australia faced its arch-rival, England, at the Oval in a one-off Test, a Test which changed Cricket.
The English bowlers managed to knock the Australians out for a mere total of 63 thanks to a fifer from Dick Barlow. In reply, England was bowled out for a paltry sum of 101, credits to a brilliant 7-wicket haul from Frederick Spofforth. Australia scored 122 in its second innings leaving England an easy target of 85.
Should’ve been a piece of cake for England…right? Well, Aussies’ first inning hero, Frederick Spofforth believed otherwise and he had said, “This thing can be done!” Result?
It was an utter humiliation for the English team as they failed to chase down the breezy target and fell short by 7 runs. The Oval Crowd was shell shocked, not able to digest the fact that they lost to the Aussies in England itself. Guess who was the Aussies hero in the last inning? It was Spofforth with another 7 wicket haul in the match.
Well, the English crowd didn’t take this loss well…
A few days, there was a mock obituary by the newspaper ‘Sporting Times’:-
“In Affectionate Remembrance of ENGLISH CRICKET, which died at the Oval on 29 August 1882,
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances.
N.B.—The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.“Embed from Getty Images
This mock obituary in simple terms said that after this humiliating loss, English Cricket died and it will be cremated and the ‘Ashes’ will be taken to Australia.
This is how the word ‘Ashes’ took birth in the cricket world.
English players were mocked everywhere and the only way they could regain the reputation back was by winning the next series against Australia in Australia. The captain Ivo Bligh vowed to win it and ‘to bring the Ashes back to England’.
It is a bit blur that how the urn came to be but one story is famous. When Ivo Bligh and his fellow players toured Australia and played a friendly match against the staff members at Rupertswood, captain Bligh was presented with an urn by a young woman named Florence Morphy. Reports have suggested that the urn was a mere perfume bottle and the ashes were of ‘burnt bails’.
Guess what happened next? Bligh and his men won the all-important series in Australia, 2-1, and brought the ‘Ashes’ home. One mock obituary and a small perfume bottle gave birth to the iconic and historic rivalry between England and Australia.Embed from Getty Images
Nowadays, the urn given to the winning captain of the series is not what the captain Bligh was given, as the original one is very fragile to hold. The urn is now under display at the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) Museum at the Mecca of Cricket, Lord’s cricket ground, in London.
The urn is the smallest trophy ever in the history of sports, not just cricket. For England and Australia, that small urn is one of the most prized and coveted trophies of all. It is made of terracotta and stands just 10.5 cm high, practically smaller than your school scale and this shall forever remain the artifact of cricket history. It is tough to imagine that without Bligh and Morphy, we would never have got the opportunity to cherish the entertainment we’ve always got from The Ashes.
Featured Image:- danielgreef/Dan / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)
I am a cricket enthusiast. I love watching cricket, especially Test matches. I have been playing cricket as an all rounder at academy level for 3 years. Apart from that, I have written 100+ answers on Quora with nearly 600,000 views