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The history of The Ashes


Cricket fans look forward to their chance to watch the most important fixture in the cricket calendar. The Ashes has been the pinnacle of the sport for long over a century and here we’re exploring the history behind the tournament and the miniature urn that sits at its heart.

When is The Ashes?

The Ashes will take place in June and July this year, with England and Australia battling it out for the coveted trophy. The Men's series will take place over five Test matches between 16th June and 31st July. The Women’s series takes place in a mutli-format approach that includes a five-day Test, three ODIs and three IT20s.

Where is The Ashes being played in 2023?

In 2023, England will fight for The Ashes on home soil. Each Test match will be held at a different cricket ground in the UK, beginning at Edgbaston before moving on to Lord’s, Headingley, Old Trafford and finally The Oval.

Australia won The Ashes in 2022, so England has a lot to play for and the benefit of playing to their home crowd.

The origins of The Ashes

The legend of The Ashes began in 1882. This year marked the first time that the England cricket team was beaten by Australia at home at The Oval. The shocking result led to a mocking spoof obituary being published in the Sporting Times, declaring the ‘death of English cricket’.

The obituary gently mocked the result and stated that the body of English cricket would be cremated and ‘the ashes’ would be taken to Australia. This led to the English media calling the next cricket tour to Australia the ‘Quest to regain The Ashes’. The full obituary read:

‘In Affectionate Remembrance of ENGLISH CRICKET, which died at the Oval on 29 August 1882, deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances. R.I.P.’

This wasn’t the first time England and Australia had played, with the origins of Test cricket between the two teams dating back to 1877. However, the idea of The Ashes quickly took hold and further popularised the game.

The Ashes Urn

The interest around the quest to regain The Ashes meant the English cricket team played on the idea, with Hon Ivo Bligh, the captain at the time, vowing to return with The Ashes from their Australian tour.

The next tour saw three scheduled matches and victory for the English. To celebrate and commemorate the idea of The Ashes, Captain Bligh was presented with a small terracotta urn to symbolise The Ashes and he brought this back to England.

Today, that same invaluable urn is held in the MCC Museum at Lord’s in London and The Ashes is contested under that name with this remarkable piece of history in mind.

Fascinating Facts about The Ashes

1. The Ashes Urn almost always resides in England

While Australia claims their ownership of The Ashes is equal, the iconic urn itself very rarely leaves London. The fragility of the historic urn means it remains in the museum at Lord’s almost all of the time. It has been to Australia twice since the 19th century, first in 1988 for Australia’s bicentenary celebrations and again in 2006-2007 as part of a touring exhibition.

2. The inside of the urn is a mystery

No one knows for sure what The Ashes urn contains. Some argue it is home to the charred remains of a bail and stumps, while descendants of Ivo Bligh have argued otherwise. The Dowager Countess of Darnley, a relative of Bligh, claimed the urn held remnants of the wedding veil of Bligh’s wife.

3. Sir Don Bradman holds the most runs record

No one has ever been able to compete with the humongous run record of Sir Don Bradman. Bradman set the record back in 1948 and reached a huge 5,028 runs. The second and third-highest scorers sit significantly below Bradman in the 3,000s so it is hard to imagine anyone will break his record.

4. Defenders retain The Ashes in a Draw

Draws aren’t the result anyone wants in cricket, but they can happen. When The Ashes series ends in a draw then the defending champions retain their win.