Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Ashes to ashes

Among the better things that we Brits (horrible term!) have given to the world is cricket.  Not that the world in general appreciates the gift.  Just about every country plays football (another English invention) but cricket is pretty much restricted to the older Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  Perhaps strangely, cricket doesn't seem to have taken off in Scotland - although the Dutch play the game.

Today sees the start of the first test match between England and our keenest adversaries, the Aussies.  Why international cricket matches are called "tests" is something I have never even considered, and I suspect few other Englishmen have either.  They just are.  A test match is scheduled to last five days whereas county matches are generally four day affairs.

Anyway, today is the first day of the Ashes series, a series of five matches.  Matches between
England and Australia are known as Ashes series because back in 1882, an English team lost on home soil for the first time - to Australia.  The next day, a mock obituary ran in the Sporting Times "in affectionate remembrance of English cricket, which died at the Oval on 29th August, 1882".  It added: "The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia".  When an English team toured Australia the following year and won the series 2-1, the English captain was presented with a small urn containing the ashes of a burned bail.  130 years later, that urn is still the prize.  The urn is not exactly the world's most stunning sporting trophy, standing as it does little more than four inches tall.   But it is one of the most keenly contested.

British sport seems to be on something of a high at present.  Our cricket team is considered by most to be number one in the world (and already holders of the Ashes), an Englishman won the Tour de France last year (and another is currently in the lead), a Brit (OK, a Scot) won the men's singles at the US Open and also at Wimbledon (and the Olympic gold), and we did extraordinarily well at the Olympics.  Could be that the Ashes will remain in these islands.


Not exactly the Ashes, just a local club match on Patcham Place playing field.

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