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The Ashes of English Cricket : How the cricketing rivalry between England and Australia got its name.
The Ashes of English Cricket

The Ashes is the name given to any Test Match series between the cricket teams of England and Australia, in a tradition which began as newspaper joke.

IN 1882, a cricket team representing Australia defeated England by just seven runs in a match at the Oval in London, the first time Australia had beaten England on home soil.*

The Sporting Times mourned the death of English cricket in a tongue-in-cheek Obituary, which ran:

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.

The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.

When England had their revenge upon Australia the following year, a group of Australian ladies graciously presented the victorious English captain, Ivo Bligh, with a terracotta urn no more than six inches high, containing (so it is said) the ashes of a single bail.*

Thus ‘the ashes of English cricket’ were returned, and to this day, every Test series between Australia and England is said to be ‘a fight for the Ashes’.

*See the urn at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. Note that the urn is not a trophy, and the teams do not ‘fight’ for it or the ashes inside it: they fight for the ashes of English cricket.

* See the scorecard at CricInfo.

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Picture: © Nic Redhead, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
Action from the Ashes Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham in 2013, with England batsman Kevin Pietersen at the crease.
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