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The Ashes explained: Do you know how cricket's oldest rivalry got its name?

The first Test at Edgbaston marks the start of the 71st Ashes Test series. It will be the 331st Test match to be played between the two rivals.

July 25, 2019 / 01:00 PM IST

After a thrilling finale between England and New Zealand at the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, fans now await the start of cricket's oldest rivalry -- The Ashes.

England take on Australia in the first Test of the 2019 Ashes at Edgbaston on August 1.

For those who love to dwell on numbers, the Test match at Edgbaston marks the start of the 71st Ashes Test series. It will be the 331st Test match to be played between the two rivals.

As the tournament takes center stage, here are some amazing facts that you should know about The Ashes.

When was the first Test between England and Australia played? 

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England and Australia played their first Test match back in the year 1877. Australia's iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) played host to the two teams.

Australia led by David William Gregory defeated James Lillywhite's England by a margin of 45 runs in that Test.  Interestingly, in the Centenary Test (to mark 100 years of Test cricket) -played again at MCG -Australia defeated England by the same margin.

Why are the Test matches between England and Australia is called the Ashes? 

In 1882, Australia toured England to play one Test match. The match, at Kennington Oval in London, was a thriller in which Australia edged out the hosts by just 7 runs.  It was Australia's first win on English soil.

Reginald Shirley Brooks, a London based journalist wrote a mock  "obituary'' in the Sporting Times

"In affectionate remembrance of English cricket which died at The Oval, 29th August, 1882. Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances, RIP. NB The body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia."

Later that year, England toured Australia and won the series 2-1. The victory in the series was referred to as 'bringing back the Ashes' to England.

This is how the Test matches between England and Australia came to be known as The Ashes.

What is the 'Urn'? How it is related to the Ashes? 

Ivo Bligh, who led England to victory over Australia played a social match at the Rupertswood Estate outside Melbourne on Christmas Eve 1882. There he was presented the small terracotta urn as a symbol of regaining the Ashes in Australia.

Bligh was handed over the urn by a group of women in Rupertswood, where he also met his future wife -- Florence Morphy.

Bligh and Florence got married in 1884 and soon sailed back to England with the Urn. The couple returned with the Urn and it stayed with the Bligh family until Ivo died, 43 years later. On Ivo's request, Florence gave the urn to Marylebone Cricket Club.

Hence, the Urn was recognized as the trophy for the Ashes.

The original 'Urn' is preserved in the MCC Museum and a replica is used for each Ashes series.

Ashes by numbers

Australia enjoy a superior record in the Ashes. In the 330 Tests, Australia has emerged victorious in 134 against England's 106 and 90 have ended in a draw.

Series wise, Australia yet again have an advantage over England, they have won 33 series while the English have won 32 series off the 70 Ashes series played so far. Five series have ended in a stalemate.

In individual performances too, the Australians dominate. Former Australian leg spinner Shane Warne holds the record for most wickets in the history of the Ashes. Warne has picked 195 wickets in 36 Tests. Donald Bradman with 5028 runs in 37 Tests is the all-time leading run-scorer in the Ashes.

Who holds the Ashes Urn currently? 

The previous Ashes Test series was held in Australia in 2017/18 season. The hosts annihilated the English side 4-0 in a 5-match series.  Former Australian skipper Steve Smith smashed 687 runs in five matches and won the Player of the Series award.

What to look forward to the upcoming Ashes series? 

England have finally managed to win the Cricket World Cup, defeating New Zealand in a thrilling final of Cricket World Cup 2019 at Lord's on July 14. They were a pre-tournament favourite and dominated in all aspects on their way to the maiden victory. The cricket world now is eager to see if England can extend their winning ways of limited over cricket to the Test format and take back the Urn from their arch-rivals.

For Australia it is the return of their two premier batsmen in Test cricket. Smith and David Warner were banned for a year from cricket following ball-tampering fiasco against South Africa in March 2018. Smith and Warner served out their punishment making a gradual comeback in professional cricket. Warner had a great run with the bat in Indian Premier League and World Cup finishing with 692 runs and 647 runs respectively. Warner is one of the most destructive batsmen in the world and Smith is categorized as the finest batsmen of this era. Australian cricket fans would want Smith and Warner to make a successful comeback in Test cricket and help Australia retain the Urn.

The first Test also marks the beginning of World Test Championship.

What the tour calendar looks like?
DateMatch Details Time (IST)
August 1England vs Australia, 1 st Test at Edgbaston, Birmingham3.30 PM
August 7Worcestershire vs Australia, Tour game at County Ground, New Road in Worcester3.30 PM
August 14England vs Australia, 2nd  Test at Lord's, London3.30 PM
August 22England vs Australia, 3rd Test at Headingley, Leeds3.30 PM
August 29Derbyshire vs Australia, Tour game at Derby3.30 PM
September 4England vs Australia, 4th Test at Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester3.30 PM
September 12England vs Australia, 5th Test at Kennington Oval, London3.30 PM
 
Moneycontrol News
first published: Jul 25, 2019 07:53 am

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