Ashes and the urn: How cricket's oldest rivalry got its name, trophy
- England and Australia are gearing up to resume the oldest rivalry in cricket
- The first Test in the 2021 Ashes will be played at the Gabba, Brisbane from Wednesday
- The word 'Ashes' was first used when England lost to Australia for the first time at home in 1882
England and Australia are gearing up to resume the oldest rivalry in cricket, with the Ashes series set to begin at the Gabba, Brisbane from Wednesday. The five-match Test series is held around every two years and the winners get to lift one of the most iconic, and smallest, trophies in sport – the Ashes Urn.
The Ashes holds a special place for English and Australian cricket and winning this series probably holds more importance than even the World Cup. The Ashes can define a captain’s legacy and make a player an immortal of the sport.
Here is a look at how the name ‘Ashes’ was adopted for this historic rivalry:
The word was first used when England lost to Australia for the first time at home in 1882. After losing the Oval Test on August 29, the Sporting Times newspaper published a joke on the death of English Cricket, saying that “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia”.
With the English team departing to tour Australia a few weeks later, then-English captain Hon Ivo Bligh vowed to return with “the ashes”, while his Australian counterpart, WL Murdoch, vowed to defend them.
England played scheduled matches against the Australian national team, while Bligh and amateurs in his side also played a number of social matches. It was at one such match near Melbourne on Christmas Eve, 1882, that Bligh was presented with a small terracotta urn as a symbol of the ashes that he had travelled to Australia to regain.
A pair of bails were burnt down and the ashes were put in that urn, making the legend of the ‘Ashes’ real.
Bligh returned to England with the urn and kept it on the mantelpiece at his home near Rochester in Kent until his death – in 1927. His wife presented the urn to the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) upon his request.
The original urn is kept at the MCC museum at the Lord’s, while players are given replicas to celebrate with upon winning the Ashes series. It was first presented to captain Mark Taylor after Australia won the 1998-99 series against England.