How the Ashes were born

LONDON, Nov 7, 2006 (AFP) – As England get set for the defence of the Ashes in Australia later this month, it’s worth recalling that one of the oldest prizes in sport was actually born out of a satirical newspaper article. Cricket’s oldest rivals had been playing one another for five years before there was any mention of the word ‘Ashes’ in relation to their contests.

All that changed in 1882 when, in a one-off Test at The Oval, Australia inspired by figures of 14 for 90 from Fred Spofforth, ‘The Demon’, fought back to win a thrilling match by seven runs.

Britain’s now defunct Sporting Times reacted to Australia’s first win on English soil with a mock obituary written by Reginald Shirley Brooks.

It read: “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. R.I.P. N.B. The body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia.”

Ivo Bligh, later Lord Darnley, captained England to a 2-1 victory in the subsequent series in Australia and according to most cricket histories he was presented with an urn containing the Ashes of a bail used in the third test by a group of Melbourne women.

However, it w