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Ashes urn arrives in Australia

October 17, 2006 09:59 IST
The Ashes arrived in Australia for only the second time on Tuesday just over a month before the hosts resume battle with England to regain the fabled urn.

The four-inch high artefact was sealed in a protective case and had its own seat in business class as it arrived in Sydney for a three-month tour before returning to the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in January.

The urn, reclaimed by England after an 18-year spell of Australian domination last year, will be the centrepiece of the Ashes Exhibition opening in Sydney on Saturday before travelling to Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Hobart.

A welcoming party that included former Australian captains Steve Waugh, Allan Border and Mark Taylor were on hand to see the case descend to the tarmac at Sydney's international airport.

Despite Australia's recent superiority in the contest, the urn has always remained in London as the property of the MCC and will return following the upcoming renewal of battle between England and Australia starting next month.

"The intense rivalry between

the two teams is fantastic but the urn isn't the trophy and therefore it will be coming back to England at the end of January regardless who wins the cricket," an MCC spokesman told local media.

Cricket's most famous contest, the Ashes dates back to 1882 when a mock obituary in the Sporting Times newspaper ridiculed England for losing on home soil to the Australians for the first time in a Test match at the Oval.

The actual urn, believed to contain the ashes from a burnt set of bails, was presented to England skipper Ivo Bligh on the 1882/83 tour of Australia.

"This is the first -- and maybe the only -- time that the Ashes urn has been able to undertake such a wide-ranging tour," chief executive Keith Bradshaw said on the MCC Web site.

"I hope as many people as possible will take the opportunity to view the exhibition."

The only previous occasion the urn visited Australia was in 1988 as part of the country's bicentennial celebrations.

The five-match Ashes series begins in Brisbane on Nov. 23.

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