Ashes Series
History

Start of Ashes Series and The Story of Urn Trophy!

The Ashes series is the oldest and fiercest International Cricket rivalry between England and Australia. The reason why the Test series got its name as the “Ashes” is also one of the most important ones in cricketing history. Let’s catch you up with it.

How Ashes Got Its Name?

The story of Ashes starts in 1882 when England lost a series to Australia for the first time in their history. The only match of the test series that year was played at Kennington Oval, London which was a low scoring affair and won by Australia by just 7 runs.

The fans and English media did not take the loss very well.  At the end of the week The Sporting Times published the famous obituary notice which read:

An Affectionate Remembrance of English Cricket, which died at the Oval on 29th August 1882, deeply lamented by a large crowd of sorrowing friends and acquaintances.
R.I.P.
N.B. – The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.

Obituary written in Sporting Times for England Cricket

The term soon came into usage once again by English Captain Ivo Bligh(Lord Delaney) in an interview. Bligh assured the fans that he would bring back “The Ashes of English cricket” during England’s tour of Australia in 1882-83. And Bligh came true on his promise as England won the first two Tests, before drawing the third one and losing fourth.

The Ashes Obituary by Sporting Times
The Ashes Obituary by Sporting Times in 1882

The Story of Ashes Urn!

As the legends have it, during 82-83 tour, Ivo Bligh was presented with the urn by a group of Melbourne women, which also included his lover and future wife, Florence Morphy. It was claimed that the urn contained the ashes of the bails from the third test which sealed England’s series win.

The Ashes were mockingly considered that of Australian Cricket and hence, the “Ashes” name got another dimension to it.

There were other attempts to create a prestigious trophy for the England-Australia series. Various English and Australian captains were presented with different trophies during the early 20th century. But none of those trophies could match the aura of the urn trophy and become the Trophy, the image and the symbol of the Ashes series.


The Return of Ashes!

Australian Cricket Team in England 1882
First Australian Team To win Test Series in England in 1882

After the series in 82-83, the term Ashes was once again forgotten. In 1899, the Australian batsmen George Giffin, who was part of the series-winning team in 1882, used the term so many times in his memoir “With Bat and Ball”. After the book came out, the Ashes term came in common use.

Four years later in 1903, before the tour of Australia, another English captain Pelham Warner said that he intended to regain the Ashes of English Cricket. This statement seemed to have worked as a seal of approval and the Australian media latched on the term. After the series win, Warner also wrote a book titled ‘How We Recovered The Ashes’ and effectively created the legend of the Ashes.


Alternate Claims About Ashes Urn!

Ivo Bligh, now called Lord Delaney, kept the urn trophy with him since it was a personal gift from his fiancé and Melbourne women. That was until 1927 when Mrs. Delaney presented the urn to MCC after Delaney’s death.

Prior to that, Delaney had said in several public gatherings and interviews that the urn contained the ashes of bails from the Melbourne Test in 1883. However, in 1998 Darnley’s daughter-in-law said they were the remains of her mother-in-law’s veil, adding more mystique around the trophy.

However, during the tour of Australia in 2006-07, the MCC official, who was carrying the urn to Australia, discarded the story of the veil and said it was “95% certain” that the urn contains the ashes of a cricket bail.


The Original Ashes Trophy

As mentioned above, the original Ashes Urn was a personal gift to Ivo Bligh/Lord Delaney and was presented to MCC. The trophy was then placed in Lord’s Cricket Ground’s Long Room. In 1953, the trophy was shifted to the MCC museum next to Lord’s Pavilion.

Australia had a long dominance over England during the 1990s. With the popular acceptance of Delaney’s trophy as the Ashes trophy, an idea was proposed to bring the trophy to Australia. But with the original trophy being old and in fragile condition, that idea was dropped. In 2002, Delaney’s heir Lord Clifton argued that that the Ashes urn should not be returned to Australia because it belonged to his family and was given to the MCC only for safekeeping.

Instead, a replica was created by Waterford Crystal and was introduced as the Ashes Trophy in the 1998-99 series. Steve Waugh became the first captain to pick the current Ashes Trophy.

The original Ashes trophy has traveled to Australia just twice in its lifetime. The first instance came in 1988 for the Bicentenary Test Match between the two sides. This was the same instance when Delaney’s Daughter-in-Law made the claim about the urn containing veil ashes.

The second time the urn traveled to Australia was in 2006-07 as part of an MCC-organised touring exhibition. And this was the time when the MCC official dispelled the claims made by Delaney’s Daughter-in-Law.


There are several more stories regarding the start of Ashes and the urn trophy, which only adds its aura and the fact that the England-Australia series remains one of the fiercest rivalries in test cricket.

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