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Death of English cricket, birth of Ashes

July 15, 2005 17:47 IST

In contrast to the bustling Australians on tour in England presently, the 1882 lot visiting their colonizers was somber. They had failed to stamp their supremacy over England after the match in March 1877 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which came to be known as the first official cricket Test.

Mark Taylor holds up the Ashes urnDespite fighting hard in their first international game in England in 1880, Australia had to face a five-wicket defeat in front of 20,000 spectators.

In 1882, they came back to English shores.

A one-off Test with England was organized at The Oval, starting from August 28.

Scorecard

Playing on a treacherous wicket, Australia was blown away for a mere 63 runs in the first innings.

The start was not encouraging but the day was to end yet.

Australia fast bowler Fredrick Spofforth, who was injured during the 1880 Test, was to shake out the hosts out of the tranquil. Bowling unchanged for 36.3 overs, he claimed six English wickets for just 46 runs.

England was all out for 101.

There was a heavy downpour on the second morning. When play resumed the conditions were still unfit to play. The footholds were slippery and the bowlers found the ball difficult to grip. English bowler Barlow, who had taken a five-for in the first innings, said the ball "was like a soap".

The Australian openers took advantage of the bowlers' discomfort and added 66 runs for the first wicket. Massie piled on 55 runs, before the conditions changed in the bowlers' favour.

The rest of the batsmen gave in and Australia collapsed to 122 in the second innings.

England needed only 85 runs for victory. They also had the best batsman of the Victorian age -- Dr. W G Grace.

Spofforth, during the 10 minutes' interval, announced to his mates: "This thing can be done."

But Grace, who had managed only four in the first innings, was not ready to bend. He coasted England to 51 for two and all eyes were on him of take the team through.

Australia struck back with his wicket. Grace was caught at mid-off for 32.

The visitors choked the batsmen with 12 successive maiden overs following his dismissal.

Spofforth claimed his second seven-wicket haul of the match. England's last five wickets fell for seven runs. And in his final 11 overs, the Australian bowler conceded just two runs for four wickets.

England were bowled out for 77, eight runs short of the target.

Spofforth, having earned the sobriquet "the Demon" was carried back on his teammates' shoulders to the pavilion.

The Times obituaryAt the end of the week, England's The Sporting Times, published the famous obituary of English cricket.

Thus were born the "Ashes" of cricket and were carried to Australia in an urn.

Lord Darnley led a team to Australia three weeks later, now with the popular objective of recovering the Ashes. England won the three-Test series 2-1, and it is believed that they brought back the Ashes.

The original urn, whose contents are still a matter of debate, is now kept in the Lord's museum and is presented to the winning team when the series is played in England.