As the first of two Ashes series in a year approaches it is worth remembering how things have changed over the years. The live televising of these matches between England and Australia is a fairly recent phenomenon. It has always been the most keenly fought cricket contest from the earliest days of the Game.
The first series dates back to 1882 and the phrase ‘the Ashes’ was coined by the Sporting Times when it announced the death of English cricket after a home defeat at the Oval. The body was cremated and the ashes sent to Australia the report continued.
Regain the ‘Ashes’
When England travelled the following year to Australia it was said the team was going to regain the Ashes. In fact a group of Melbourne women presented the English Captain Ivo Blight with a small urn full of ashes and the contest has been known as the Ashes ever since though the urn has never been formally adopted as the trophy.
Image attributed to wikimedia CC-BY-SA-2.0
The small urn remains in the MCC Museum, a gift from Bligh’s widow; replicas are used for presentation purposes.
Even during the era when the West Indies was the dominant force in World Cricket there was nothing quite like an Ashes Series. The Australian domination that followed did not lessen the appeal to watch the contests but with the ‘green caps’ winning series after series, even the English ‘Barmy Army’ struggled to raise too much enthusiasm when touring the grounds of Australia.
Things have swung in recent series with England now the strong favourites to retain the Ashes won in 2009 and retained in Australia two years later. The sporting calendar has now produced two Series very close together and every ball is available at home. You can watch sports online by purchasing a daily pass without the need to commit to a long term monthly contract.
It is a facility that is likely to expand the numbers of people watching dedicated sports channels and is available for anyone with a good broadband connection. It can in fact be viewed on two nominated devices at any one time.
Time zone differences cannot be changed but the Ashes is something special. It is arguably as fierce an international sporting event in existence never mind something that just cricket enthusiasts await with anticipation. When there was a two year gap between series thoughts of the next series still switched immediately to the next no matter who each country played in the intervening time.
This time around there is no two year gap and although Australia is bringing a relatively inexperienced team for the home series no Australian sportsman can be underestimated. It will be a major surprise if England fails but even in triumph it will be tested again immediately across the other side of the World in different conditions.
England won on the last visit to Australia against a side that still included such notable batsmen as Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey. They have now retired and will be missed by the Aussies this summer, and next winter. What will not be missed is a single ball for anyone not able to attend a match if they take out a daily pass to watch the action.