The Ashes Legend Begins
No matter how many times we may beat the Australians at cricket , the sad fact remains that The Ashes exist because of an unexpected victory by their team – England’s first home loss.
In 1882 only one test was played as the colonials toured England: atKennington Oval on August 28 and 29. This was played on a classic sticky wicket, the scores low as a result. England needed to make 85 to win batting last, but the Glenn McGrath of his day Fred Spofforth ruined the party for the home crowd. He bettered his first innings effort of 7-46 with 7-44, the last four wickets taken for just two runs, supposedly determined to pay W.G. Grace back for an un-gentlemanly run-out while an Aussie batsman left his crease to pat the wicket.
National pride was dented. On September 2 The Sporting Times featured a mock death notice which read: “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, R.I.P. N.B. – The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia”. When the England team toured Australia later that year their captain was presented with a tiny trophy supposedly containing said ashes.
Mystery surrounds who presented it, where, and even what the little terracotta urn originally contained (possibly perfume) and what it now holds (a burnt bail or singed veil).
It took time for the series to be universally called The Ashes, but for as long as the two nations contest real cricket matches no other title could now be considered. PR consultancies can only dream of creating such symbols. Strangely the teams don’t even play for that trophy, which was a personal gift later donated to the MCC and kept at the Lord’s Museum . But they play for its spirit.