April 25, 2001

The battle for the Ashes

The forthcoming Australian tour of England will be the first in the 21st century. There have been 33 previous trips by the Aussies to the mother country inclusive of 10 in the 19th and 23 in the last century.

Summary of Results
Australia and England have played 296 Test matches against each other so far; of these 117 were won by Australia and 93 by England, the remaining 86 were drawn. Interestingly, despite Australia's overall supremacy, the performance of both teams on English soil is highly competitive, Australia have won 41 tests against 40 English victories. 60 of these 141 test matches played to-date have ended in a draw.

ODI's
In the condensed version of the game the performance of the two teams has been quite competitive. Out of the 67 ODI's played between them, Australia have won 34 whilst their opponents have emerged victorious in 31. Off the balance, one match resulted in a tie with the other in no result.

History
Ever since the inaugural test match between the two nations was held 124 years ago, which in fact laid the foundation of one of the greatest sporting events, more of an institution, no other cricket contest draws so much attention as that between England and Australia. It is noteworthy that the contest has been styled as battle for `Ashes' first waged in 1883. The first round of this running battle is scheduled this summer.

In Kangaroos Pouch since 1989
Australia has not lost a Test series to England since 1986-87. In fact, since then they have recorded six successive `Ashes' win. In this most enduring conflict, Australia has dominated by 20 Test match victories against 5 by their oldest enemy since 1989. As a result, the mythical prize over which England and Australia have been fighting over the last 118 years has been resting in the `kangaroos pouch' since 1989, when David Gower led England lost to AR Border led Australia 4-0 in the six Test rubber. No wonder the actual urn containing the `Ashes' never actually leaves the custody of `Lords'. Yet it is a part of cricket's history and cricket is a game of tradition and this is how tradition is honoured.

Origin
When Australia beat England at the Oval in August 1882 and achieved their first victory in England it was considered as a national disaster and on the following day the "Sporting Times" published an obituary notice for English Cricket: "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 RIP.
NB. The body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia".

Thereafter England regained the Ashes in 1882-83 by winning two of a rubber of three matches, the fourth was considered an extra and a spare series. However at the end of the third Test match some ladies burnt a bail and sealed the `Ashes' in a small urn and presented it to the England Captain Hon Ivo Bligh, later the 8th Lord of Darnley. The urn and velvet bag in which the `Ashes' were originally presented is kept in the Imperial Cricket Memorial Museum at Lord's having been bequeathed to the MCC in the will of Lord Darnley on his death in 1927.

Longest periods when the two opponents have held the `Ashes'
19th Century:
1884 - Won by England in England and held for 7 years and 174 days
1897-98 - Won by Australia in Australia and held for 6 years and 37 days

20th Century:
1911-12 - Won by England in Australia and held for 8 years and 342 days
1934 - Won by Australia in England and held for 18 years and 362 days.

Notes:
- The era 1934 to 1948 was largely dominated by the presence of Sir DG Bradman.
- England won 8 series on the trot in the 19th century but only one series was of five tests

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