The Toughest Tour: The Ashes Away Series: 1946 to 2007

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A celebrated poem appeared in Punch on Saturday, 9 September. The first verse, quoted most frequently, reads:. Well done, Cornstalks! Whipt us Fair and square, Was it luck that tript us? Was it scare? Kangaroo Land's 'Demon', or our own Want of 'devil', coolness, nerve, backbone? It read:. Ivo Bligh promised that on —83 tour of Australia , he would, as England's captain, "recover those Ashes".

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He spoke of them several times over the course of the tour, and the Australian media quickly caught on. The three-match series resulted in a two-one win to England, notwithstanding a fourth match, won by the Australians, whose status remains a matter of ardent dispute.

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In the 20 years following Bligh's campaign the term "the Ashes" largely disappeared from public use. There is no indication that this was the accepted name for the series, at least not in England. The term became popular again in Australia first, when George Giffen , in his memoirs With Bat and Ball , , used the term as if it were well known. The true and global revitalisation of interest in the concept dates from , when Pelham Warner took a team to Australia with the promise that he would regain "the ashes".

As had been the case on Bligh's tour 20 years before, the Australian media latched fervently onto the term and, this time, it stuck. Although the origins of the term are not referred to in the text, the title served along with the general hype created in Australia to revive public interest in the legend. The first mention of "the Ashes" in Wisden Cricketers' Almanack occurs in , while Wisden' s first account of the legend is in the edition.

As it took many years for the name "The Ashes" to be given to ongoing series between England and Australia, there was no concept of there being a representation of the ashes being presented to the winners. As late as the following verse appeared in The Cricketers Annual :.

Nevertheless, several attempts had been made to embody the Ashes in a physical memorial. Examples include one presented to Warner in , another to Australian captain M. Noble in , and another to Australian captain W. Woodfull in The oldest, and the one to enjoy enduring fame, was the one presented to Bligh, later Lord Darnley, during the —83 tour.

The precise nature of the origin of this urn is matter of dispute. Based on a statement by Darnley in , it was believed that a group of Victorian ladies, including Darnley's later wife Florence Morphy , made the presentation after the victory in the Third Test in More recent researchers, in particular Ronald Willis [8] and Joy Munns [9] have studied the tour in detail and concluded that the presentation was made after a private cricket match played over Christmas when the English team were guests of Sir William Clarke , at his property " Rupertswood ", in Sunbury, Victoria.

This was before the matches had started. The prime evidence for this theory was provided by a descendant of Clarke. He made the following statement about how he was given the urn: [10]. When in the autumn the English Eleven went to Australia it was said that they had come to Australia to "fetch" the ashes. England won two out of the three matches played against Murdoch's Australian Eleven, and after the third match some Melbourne ladies put some ashes into a small urn and gave them to me as captain of the English Eleven.

A more detailed account of how the Ashes were given to Ivo Bligh was outlined by his wife, the Countess of Darnley, in during a speech at a cricket luncheon. Her speech was reported by the London Times as follows: [11].

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In , she said, it was first spoken of when the Sporting Times, after the Australians had thoroughly beaten the English at the Oval, wrote an obituary in affectionate memory of English cricket "whose demise was deeply lamented and the body would be cremated and taken to Australia". Her husband, then Ivo Bligh, took a team to Australia in the following year.

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Clarke, who entertained the English so lavishly, found a little wooden urn, burnt a bail, put the ashes in the urn, and wrapping it in a red velvet bag, put it into her husband's Ivo Bligh's hands. He had always regarded it as a great treasure. There is another statement which is not totally clear made by Lord Darnley in about the timing of the presentation of the urn.

He was interviewed in his home at Cobham Hall by Montague Grover and the report of this interview was as follows: [12]. This urn was presented to Lord Darnley by some ladies of Melbourne after the final defeat of his team, and before he returned with the members to England. He made a similar statement in The report of this statement in the Brisbane Courier was as follows: [13]. The proudest possession of Lord Darnley is an earthenware urn containing the ashes which were presented to him by Melbourne residents when he captained the Englishmen in Though the team did not win, the urn containing the ashes was sent to him just before leaving Melbourne.

The contents of the urn are also problematic; they were variously reported to be the remains of a stump, bail or the outer casing of a ball, but in Darnley's year-old daughter-in-law said they were the remains of her mother-in-law's veil, casting a further layer of doubt on the matter.

Speaking on Channel Nine TV on 25 November , he said x-rays of the urn had shown the pedestal and handles were cracked, and repair work had to be carried out. A label containing a six-line verse is pasted on the urn. This is the fourth verse of a song-lyric published in the Melbourne Punch on 1 February When Ivo goes back with the urn, the urn; Studds , Steel , Read and Tylecote return, return; The welkin will ring loud, The great crowd will feel proud, Seeing Barlow and Bates with the urn, the urn; And the rest coming home with the urn.

During Darnley's lifetime there was little public knowledge of the urn, and no record of a published photograph exists before The Illustrated London News published this photo in January shown above.

1946–47 Ashes series

When Darnley died in his widow presented the urn to the Marylebone Cricket Club and that was the key event in establishing the urn as the physical embodiment of the legendary ashes. MCC's wish for it to be seen by as wide a range of cricket enthusiasts as possible has led to its being mistaken for an official trophy.

It is in fact a private memento, and for this reason it is never awarded to either England or Australia, but is kept permanently in the MCC Cricket Museum where it can be seen together with the specially made red and gold velvet bag and the scorecard of the match. Because the urn itself is so delicate, it has been allowed to travel to Australia only twice.

It then toured to other states, with the final appearance at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery on 21 January In the s, given Australia's long dominance of the Ashes and the popular acceptance of the Darnley urn as "the Ashes", the idea was mooted that the victorious team should be awarded the urn as a trophy and allowed to retain it until the next series. Furthermore, in , Bligh's great-great-grandson Lord Clifton, the heir-apparent to the Earldom of Darnley , argued that the Ashes urn should not be returned to Australia because it belonged to his family and was given to the MCC only for safe keeping.

As a compromise, the MCC commissioned a larger replica of the urn in Waterford Crystal , known as the Ashes Trophy, to award to the winning team of each series starting with the —99 Ashes. Later in , following the famous Australian victory at The Oval, Bligh led an England team to Australia, as he said, to "recover those ashes". Publicity surrounding the series was intense, and it was at some time during this series that the Ashes urn was crafted. Australia won the First Test by nine wickets , but in the next two England were victorious.

At the end of the Third Test, England were generally considered to have "won back the Ashes" 2—1.

A fourth match was played, against a "United Australian XI", which was arguably stronger than the Australian sides that had competed in the previous three matches; this game, however, is not generally considered part of the —83 series. It "is" counted as a Test, but as a standalone.

This match ended in a victory for Australia. After Bligh's victory, there was an extended period of English dominance. The tours generally had fewer Tests in the s and s than people have grown accustomed to in more recent years, the first five-Test series taking place only in — England lost only four Ashes Tests in the s out of 23 played, and they won all the seven series contested.

There was more chopping and changing in the teams, given that there was no official board of selectors for each country in —88, two separate English teams were on tour in Australia and popularity with the fans varied. The s games were more closely fought, Australia taking its first series win since with a 2—1 victory in — But England dominated, winning the next three series to despite continuing player disputes. The —95 series began in sensational fashion when England won the First Test at Sydney by just 10 runs having followed on.

Australia had scored a massive Syd Gregory , George Giffen and then dismissed England for But England responded with and then dramatically dismissed Australia for with Bobby Peel taking 6 for At the close of the second last day's play, Australia were —2, needing only 64 more runs. But heavy rain fell overnight and next morning the two slow left-arm bowlers, Peel and Johnny Briggs , were all but unplayable. England went on to win the series 3—2 after it had been all square before the Final Test, which England won by 6 wickets. The English heroes were Peel, with 27 wickets in the series at an average of In England under the captaincy of W. Grace won the series 2—1, and this marked the end of England's longest period of Ashes dominance. Australia resoundingly won the —98 series by 4—1 under the captaincy of Harry Trott.