Australia had beaten England in the first ever test match played at Melbourne in 1877.After a series of test matches played in the interim, however, when Australia beat England at the Oval in 1882, it was regarded as a national disaster in England and a mock obituary appeared in the ‘Sporting Times’ the next day..
In affectionate remembrance of
Which died at the Oval on
29th August, 1882,
deeply lamented by the large circle of
sorrowing friends and acquaintances
N.B. The body will be cremated and
the Ashes taken to Australia
In this match, England had been set 85 runs to win, but a superb spell of fast bowling from Fred Spofforth, ‘the demon’, left them groping by seven runs. He had captured 14 wickets for 90 runs in the match.
The following winter, England won the test series in Australia. At a dinner before the England team’s departure, skipper Ivo Bligh had promised to bring back the ‘Ashes of English cricket’. After the decider, some ladies burnt a stump, sealed its ashes in an urn and presented it to the England skipper. Thus began the great tradition of the ‘Ashes’. The urn stands in the Memorial Gallery at Lord’s, even if Australia wins them.