Sunday, 23 August 2009

Small is Beautiful : The Ashes

Is this the smallest sporting trophy in the world?

Victorious England captain Andrew Strauss holding a replica of the precious urn today. The Ashes is a Test cricket series played between England and Australia. It is one of international cricket's most celebrated rivalries and dates back to 1882. It is currently played biennially, alternately in Australia and England. Don't ask me to explain the intricacies of Test match rules to my American pals (or even to some of my British ones) save to say that one match will last up to 5 days and may often end in a draw, sometimes occasioned by the intervention of rain.

The term 'Ashes' was first used after England lost to Australia - for the first time on home soil - at The Oval on 29th August 1882. A day later, the Sporting Times carried a mock obituary to English cricket which concluded that: "The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia". The concept caught the imagination of the sporting public. A few weeks later, an English team, captained by the Hon Ivo Bligh [later Lord Darnley], set off to tour Australia, with Bligh vowing to return with "the ashes"; his Australian counterpart, WL Murdoch, similarly vowed to defend them.

The velvet bag that originally held the urn

During that tour, Bligh and his players participated in a social match where he was presented
with the small terracotta urn as a symbol of the ashes that he had travelled to Australia to regain. I was disappointed to find that it is only a myth that it contains the burnt remains of the bails that sit across the stumps forming the wicket. Well, to Bligh the urn was a personal gift and it stayed on his mantelpiece at Cobham Hall near Rochester, Kent until he died 43 years later. Then at his request it was bequeathed to the home of English cricket the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) and came to rest in their museum at the famous Lords ground.

In the 1990s, recognising the two teams' desire to compete for an actual trophy, MCC commissioned an urn-shaped Waterford Crystal trophy.

The new Waterford trophy dwarfs the original

Acknowledgments: Wikipedia and Lords


  1. I remember the first time I saw how tiny it was, I was shocked.

    Have you seen the blog written by the wife of the chief steward at Lords? I come across it every so often, but can't remember the name of it!

  2. Meg, I always enjoy your connections with UK, although I know that
    'our Apalachia' (Wales) was your base, wasn't it??!

  3. Hi Rosie, small is beautiful and apparently carried deep meaning to the recipient- that's what makes it priceless. G

  4. Thanks for your kind comment on my blog this weekend.

    Despite the efforts of several British friends, I still have no grasp on the rules of cricket. Maybe it's the vast number Pimm's cups we drink while watching (I was convinced that the Pimm's Cup was a cricket tournament).

  5. Cool, quarter rat! Pimm's Cup indeed.


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