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  Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
Ashes History: The early years
How the Ashes came about
The origins of cricket's oldest international contest go back to 1882, when the third Australian team to tour England achieved the unthinkable.

Until then, the English had never been beaten on home soil, but Australia, led by by WL Murdoch, shocked the "Mother Country".

England, with the legendary WG Grace in their ranks, lost by seven runs, Aussie fast bowler Fred Spofforth taking 14 wickets for 90 runs.

The following day, a mock obituary ran in the Sporting Times "in affectionate remembrance of English cricket, which died at the Oval on 29th August, 1882".

  Ashes history
1882: Eng 0-1 Aus
1882-83: Aus 1-2 Eng*
1884: Eng 1-0 Aus
1884-85: Aus 2-3 Eng
1886: Eng 3-0 Aus
1886-87: Aus 0-2 Eng
1887-88: Aus 0-1 Eng
1888: Eng 2-1 Aus
1890: Eng 2-0 Aus
1891-92: Aus 2-1 Eng
1893: Eng 1-0 Aus
1894-95: Aus 2-3 Eng
1896: Eng 2-1 Aus
1897-98: Aus 4-1 Eng
1899: Eng 0-1 Aus
1901-02: Aus 4-1 Eng
It added: "The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia."

Those mythical ashes became a reality when the next England team to tour Australia.

The Hon Ivo Bligh was presented with an urn containing the burnt remains of a bail after beating the home side 2-1*.

Thus "The Ashes" were now a tangible sporting prize, although they remain in the safekeeping of cricket's spiritual home, Lord's.

After regaining their honour, England went on to win the next seven Ashes contests, starting with the first home Test series against Australia in 1884.

That winter, England beat Australia 3-2 in the first five-Test series Down Under.

But it was a tour marred by controversy, including a walkout by the Aussies over payment and a fight in the first match.

Better shape

England underlined their superiority in 1886 with a 3-0 win, again in Australia with a 2-0 triumph (1886-87), and also won the single Test of their 1887-88 tour.

The Aussies were in better shape that summer in England, winning the first Test, but went down by an innings in the second and third.

Once again, some good bowling was let down by poor batting on their 1890 tour, as England, led by WG Grace, triumphed 2-0.

The Australians finally reclaimed the Ashes when England toured in 1891-92, beating Grace's team 2-1. But the English turned the tables with a 1-0 win in 1893's three-match series.

They ran out 3-2 touring winners in 1894-95, and won 2-1 in the last entire Ashes series under Grace's captaincy in 1896.

It was England's final Ashes triumph of the Victorian era, however, as Australia reeled off four successive wins.

They won 4-1 at home in 1897-98, then 1-0 on tour in 1899, when, at the age of 51, Grace played his last Test.

The Australians won 4-1 again as hosts in 1901-02, and 2-1 on their travels in 1902.

* The Australians actually won a fourth match between the teams, but it is regarded as unofficial.

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See also:

17 Oct 02 | Sports Talk
16 Oct 02 | Sports Talk
Links to more History stories are at the foot of the page.


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