The Ashes cricket series is one of the oldest and most prestigious international cricket contests between two great cricketing nations, England and Australia. The Test match series between these nations is held approximately every two years, and is one of sport's great rivalries.
The series dates back to 1882 when Australia won its first-ever Test match on English soil. Since then, the Ashes has become a fiercely competitive and highly anticipated series, played biennially, alternately in England and Australia. The series consists of five Test matches, and the winner of the series is awarded the Ashes urn.
The term “The Ashes” came from a satirical obituary published in The Sporting Times, a British newspaper, right after Australia won the 1882 game at The Oval. It was Australia's first Test win on English soil. In the obituary, it said that English cricket had died and the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. These mythical ashes then became connected with the 1882-1883 series that was played in Australia, before which the English captain Ivo Bligh had promised to “regain those ashes”. English media then dubbed the tour the quest to regain the Ashes. (see more about the Ashes history)
The Ashes Urn - cricket's greatest prize
When England won two out of three Tests during the tour, there was a small urn that was presented to Bligh by a group of Melbourne women including Florence Morphy, who Bligh married after a year.
Inside the urn were ashes of a wooden ball and were humorously described as “the ashes of Australian cricket.” It was not clear if the “tiny silver urn” is similar to the small terracotta urn that was handed to the MCC by Bligh’s widow after his death in 1927.
The urn was never an official trophy for The Ashes series, because it was a personal gift to Bligh. There were replicas that were being handed out to winning teams as a symbol of victory during the series.
From the 1998-1999 Ashes series, a Waterford Crystal representation of the Ashes urn (called the Ashes trophy) has been given to the victors of the Ashes series, as the official trophy.
The original urn remains in the MCC Museum but was taken to Australia to be put on display during two occasions – Australian Bicentenary celebrations in 1998 and to The Ashes in 2006-2007.
There are five Tests during The Ashes series. England and Australia take turns in hosting the event every four years.
The Ashes is held by the team who won the last Test series or if it is a drawn series, the team that last won the series.
Other Ashes Content
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- Learn more about the sport of Cricket.
- About the MCG
- See other major world sporting events