It was the Northern summer of 1882 and although England had lost in its previous Australian tour, it had never been defeated by the "Colonials" on home soil. Although sometimes referred to as the first Ashes test, the 1882 match was a single match played over two days and was only later elevated to the status of a Test.
While "The Ashes" was an indirect product of England's defeat, it was not in existence at the time of the match. As to the game itself, from the beginning it looked to be England's for the taking. In the first innings on a rain soaked pitch Australia was bowled out for an unimpressive 63. With England in to bat, Australia managed to hold their proponents to just 101. The outstanding bowler for Australia was Fred (The Demon Bowler) Spofforth who took seven wickets for 46 with 147 deliveries. Evidence of the excitement generated by the match could be seen in the attendance which, during the course of the first day's play, rose from 10,000 to around 22,000.
According to the Cricket historian, Bernard Whimpress,
On the sloping embankment close to the chains people were standing 20 deep all round, and further back on the terraces the crowd was equally dense, while in the stands there was not a vacant seat. The roofs of the dingy brick houses surrounding The Oval also bore eager spectators.
|The match at the Oval|
At 114 Jones was run out in a way which gave great dissatisfaction to Murdoch and other Australians. Murdoch played a ball to leg, for which Lyttelton ran. The ball was returned, and Jones having completed the first run, and thinking wrongly, but very naturally, that the ball was dead, went out of his ground. Grace put his wicket down, and the umpire gave him out. Several of the team spoke angrily of Grace's action, but the compiler was informed that after the excitement had cooled down a prominent member of Australian eleven admitted that he should have done the same thing had he been in Grace's place. There was a good deal of truth in what a gentleman in the pavilion remarked, amidst some laughter, that Jones ought to thank the champion for teaching him something.
|Fred (The Demon Bowler) Spofforth|
Many English sports lovers must have been aghast not only at the English team's loss, but at the sheer effrontery of the Australians daring to win on English soil. After Australia's win, an obituary appeared in The Sporting Times. It read
Not only did Bligh acquire the ashes he met Florence Morphy whom he married in 1884. The English captain always considered the small urn a personal gift. It was kept on the mantelpiece of his home until his death in 1927 at which time his widow gave the urn to the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) where the ashes reside in a small terracotta urn housed in the Cricket Museum at the Lord's Cricket ground.
The Ashes series now stands (2013) England 31, Australia 32, and 5 drawn. As of this writing, Australia has just won three of the five matches being played and has regained the ashes! But one small footnote might be added here. Despite a cracking victory on English soil in 1882, Australia was unable to win another Ashes series there until 1899 when they won one test and drew four. But that is another story, for another time.
For those readers unfamiliar with the "Laws of Cricket," a PDF copy of the latest compilation can be downloaded by clicking here.
To see a brief video history of "The Ashes" and how they came to be, click here.
NOTE: Australia won all five of the Tests in 2013-14. This was only the third time in history that this had been accomplished. The present Captain of the Australian side, Michael Clarke, is the only player to have participated in more than one of the 5-0 Ashes series (2006-7, 2013-14).