The rivalry between the English and Australian cricket teams is one of the most enduring in sporting history. It’s at the biannual Ashes tournament where this longstanding rivalry comes to a head. Since its inception in 1882, the Ashes have given sports fans the chance to experience some of the most thrilling cricket that they’ll ever see. Over the years, the tournament has become one of the most eagerly anticipated in the sporting calendar, but the Ashes actually came from rather bizarre beginnings.

How It Started

In 1882, London newspaper, the Sporting Times, printed a mock obituary following England’s first defeat in a home Test against Australia. It read, “In Affectionate Remembrance of English cricket, which died at the Oval on 29th August, 1882…The body will be cremated and the ashes taken back to Australia.”

This message inspired a group of Australian women to give the England tour captain, the Honourable Ivo Bligh, an urn. The contents of the urn are disputed, but it was rumoured to be either the ashes of some cricket equipment; either a ball or bail. This humble urn then became one of the most coveted prizes in cricket; the Ashes was born.

Figurative ‘ownership’ of the urn is given to whichever team gains an outright victory in the Test series. The winning team was presented to the winning side until 1990, when the MCC commissioned a replica crystal trophy. The original Ashes urn is currently held at the MCC museum at Lord’s.

Notable Players

The longstanding rivalry that exists between England and Australia has inspired players on both sides to offer unforgettable performances on the pitch. Some of the finest cricketers in history have played in Ashes series, notably Don Bradman, who holds the record for most runs scored; a massive 5028. Australia’s Shane Warne is considered to be the most prolific Ashes player, having competed in 36 matches, scored 946 runs, 195 wickets and made 30 catches during his career.

Support for the Ashes

Since it began all those years ago, the Ashes has remained one of the most keenly anticipated sporting events. The matches consistently get huge crowds at the variety of venues where the Test matches are played, with many venues selling out well in advance. Offering something for the whole family, the great cricket on display at the Ashes has inspired thousands of children to don cricket pads, pick up a cricket bat and get involved with this wonderful game.

The strong, enduring competitiveness between the English and Australian cricket teams has inspired many other famous sporting rivalries between the two nations. Recent rugby league tournaments and even the London 2012 Olympics both saw the age old rivalry between England and Australia come to a head.

Throughout its history, the popularity of the Ashes tournament has rarely waned, and this year, it’s been more popular than ever. The drama on display at this year’s Ashes series has shown that this legendary sporting rivalry is here to stay for many more years.