Saturday, January 06, 2007

Ashes to Ashes

"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."

Australia's first victory on English soil over the full strength of England, on August 29, 1882, inspired a young London journalist, Reginald Shirley Brooks, to write this mock 'obituary'.

It appeared in the Sporting Times.

It was long believed that the real Ashes, a small urn thought to contain the ashes of a bail used in the third match, were presented to Bligh by a group of Melbourne women. In 1998, Lord Darnley's 82-year-old daughter-in-law said they were the remains of her mother-in-law's veil, not a bail. Other evidence suggests a ball. The certain origin of the Ashes, therefore, is the subject of some dispute.

After Lord Darnley's death in 1927, the urn was given to MCC by Lord Darnley's Australianborn widow, Florence. It can be seen in the cricket museum at Lord's, together with a red and gold velvet bag, made specially for it, and the scorecard of the 1882 match.

The text on the urn is as follows:-

When Ivo goes back with the urn, the urn;
Studds, Steel, Read and Tylecote return, return;
The welkin will ring loud,
The great crowd will feel proud,
Seeing Barlow and Bates with the urn, the urn;
And the rest coming home with the urn.

Of course, I'm talking about cricket, and inparticular the bi-annual round of Test matches between England and Australia. These series of matches have come to be called the Ashes series, and are generally a hard fought battle between the twofor theries forthe honour of winning or retaining the Ashes.

Eighteen months ago, England gloriously regained the Ashes by narrowly beating Australia in the series, - the first time England had won the ashes since 1987 when the team, led by Mike Gatting and including players like Chris Broad and Ian Botham at the top of their form, returned the Ashes from Australian soil. England won the series 2:1.

Since then, and up to the summer of 2005, it has been perpetual England gloom where apart from 1997, when England actually won a couple of tests (though Australia still won the series) Australia have comprehensively beaten us. Then came 2005, and a tough and gritty encounter leading to a 2:1 series winning result and the Ashes were safely back in safe hands.

Safe, that is, until the present series which has resulted in the first whitewash since 1921!

England had lost the First Test in Brisbane looking totally unprepared and hardly putting up a fight, but the series was lost in 1 hour of torture in the Second Test in Adelaide. Up until the last day, it had been a great match, nip & tuck all the way with England slightly the better. Then, in the space of 1 hour, with a respectable draw very much on the cards, England contrived to lose 7 wickets for just 27 runs! The Geneva Conventions should have been evoked! This was cruel and unusual punishment beyond human imagination.

The test was lost, and with it, the series.

Confidence was shattered for England, and of course, confidence was unassailed for Australia - they had pulled the brands out of the fire. They were unconquerable, and everyone knew it.

What now for 2009? I don't know and I'm too depressed about it to think that far ahead, but think about it we must, and moreover plan for it leaving no detail overlooked. Never again will England be so humiliated!

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