International Test cricket had its inauguration with a contest between England and Australia in 1877. In the early days of the game, most of the matches were held between the two nations as cricket had not become a popular global sport back then. The rivalry between the two countries is considered to be the oldest in international cricket and still generates a lot of heat to this very day. But do you know why the contest between these two proud cricketing nations is labelled as the Ashes?
The name ‘Ashes’ was first coined by the British media. In the series between the two sides in 1882, England managed to lose a contest against the Australians from a strong winning position at the Oval. This was the first time that Australia had managed to beat the English on their home soil. The thrilling finish was completed on 29th August 1882.
Australia batted first in this Test held at the Oval. Their innings had a premature finish as they were skittled for just 63 runs. England replied with 101 all out thus taking a 38-run lead. On the treacherous track, Australian opener Hugh Massie smashed 55 off just 60 balls as his side posted 122 in the third innings. In the chase, Australian pacer Fred Spofforth also known as ‘the demon’ breathed fire with a spell of 7/44. England lost the Test by seven runs.
The famous obituary of English cricket
The loss came as a massive shock and the media was highly critical of England’s performance. A newspaper called The Sporting Times wrote a now-famous epitaph, which read:
“An 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. R.I.P. N.B. – The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”
The Ashes in numbers
Since 1882, England and Australia have faced off for the Ashes 335 times. Australia hold the edge over their fierce rivals, winning 136 matches compared to England’s 108 victories. 91 matches have ended as a draw.
In 140 years, Australia and England have competed in a total of 72 Ashes series. The numbers are neck and neck with Australia triumphing in 34 series while England winning 32. In terms of Test victories, Australia have won 140 Tests while England have won 108 Tests out of the total of 340 encounters.