Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cricket - How the Ashes got its name. Thank you Miss Morphy.

The Ashes is a biennial Test cricket contest played between England and Australia . The series is named after the trophy, which is a small terracotta urn said to contain the burnt bails from a game played in 1882 at The Oval . An Ashes series typically consists of five Test matches, and the host of the series alternates between the two countries.

England v Australia - The Oval Meeting

The August 1882 cricket match at the Oval cricket ground in Kennington, London, was recorded as the most exciting cricket match of all time. It was a match played between two great sides: the home side, lead by the Honourable Ivo Bligh, and the tourists by William Lloyd Murdoch.

The tourists started off badly - 63 all out in the first innings. After the tea break and regaining their composure, they secured a miraculous victory in just two days. The Aussies wrapped up their victory by just seven runs.

This was a blow to the English side - their country being the birthplace of the sport, and also being one of the best sides of their time, their defeat proved that they weren't invincible. The Australians saw it as a breakthrough. They were the side that stood a healthy chance of beating the English side in future meetings.

To rub it in, The Sporting Times published this on 2 September 1882:

In Affectionate Remembrance
E N G L I S H C R I C K E T,
which died at the Oval
29th A U G U S T, 1882,
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances
NB - The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.

England v Australia - Down Under

The English media played up the subsequent tour to Australia in 1882/83 (which had been arranged before this defeat) as a quest to "regain the Ashes".

Before England's defeat at The Oval, by seven runs, arrangements had already been made for the Hon. Ivo Bligh, afterwards Lord Darnley, to lead a team to Australia. Three weeks later they set out, now with the popular objective of recovering the Ashes. In the event, Australia won the First Test by nine wickets, but with England winning the next two it became generally accepted that they had regained their pride.

A group of Victorian ladies headed by Lady Clarke burned what has variously been called a ball, bail or veil, and presented the resulting ashes to Bligh in an urn together with a velvet bag, which was made by Mrs Ann Fletcher, the daughter of Joseph Hines Clarke and Marion Wright, both of Dublin . She said, "What better way than to actually present the English captain with the very 'object' — albeit mythical — he had come to Australia to retrieve?"

Bligh later married another of these Melburnian ladies, Florence Morphy. When he died in 1927 his widow presented the urn to the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). It can be seen in the cricket museum at Lord's, together with the velvet bag, made specially for it, and the scorecard of the 1882 match. It is never physically awarded to either England or Australia, but is kept permanently in the MCC Cricket Museum at Lord's Cricket Ground

With assistance from the BBC and Learn English Online
Image: Robert Simpson Australian, 1955- ): Original artwork "Batsman and Keeper", crayon/gouache on paper


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