A history of the Ashes
I’ve been on my soapbox over the last couple of weeks on Extra Cover, admonishing all and sundry about their lack of knowledge regarding cricket history.
Our guest last week, Roger Telemachus was stumped by an e-mail enquiring as to the origin of the Ashes. Now, some might say that seeing he is not an Australian he shouldn’t care less, but I feel he should have had some basic knowledge of the subject.
Anyway I ended up giving a very brief background to the story and felt that this week I should elaborate.
The English toured Australia twice in the 1860’s and, seeing the interest of such contests, further tours were arranged for the future. W.G. Grace was in prolific form in the 1870’s and so to allow the Australian public exposure to this colossus, a further tour of Australia was organised for the 1873/74 season. The Aussies took a gap and fielded a team of 22 local players against the tourists!
The appetite was whetted.
In 1876 James Lilly White Jnr of Sussex set sail for Australia again, accompanied by eleven other professionals, leaving the shores of England on the P&O steamship Poonah on September 21st.
Their opposition this time was a combined Australian team consisting more realistically of eleven players.
This match commenced on March 15 1877 and came to be regarded as the first Test match.
The Australians, captained by Dave Gregory, triumphed by 45 runs.
For interest sake, Alfred Shaw of Nottinghamshire bowled the first ball in Test cricket and Charles Bannerman faced the first delivery. Bannerman scored 165 and eventually retired hurt with a broken finger. In the second innings, Alfred Shaw also excelled taking 5 for 38.
More riveting encounters were to follow.
In 1882 the touring Australians sent shock waves throughout England by beating the home team by 7 runs at the Oval in London. This tragedy prompted the following famous Ashes announcement in the Sporting Times.
In Affectionate Remembrance
WHICH DIED AT THE OVAL
29th August 1882,
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing
friends and acquaintances
R. I. P.
N.B. – The body will be cremated and the
Ashes taken to Australia.
When the next English touring party arrived in Australia, captained by Ivo Bligh, some ladies from Melbourne presented him with an urn containing the ashes of a stump, ball or bail.
From that moment on the Ashes legend was born and has been a fierce contest between England and Australia ever since.
The precious trophy, the Urn, remains in the museum at Lords regardless of whether England or Australia holds the Ashes.