The Ashes

Another important sporting event in the pantheon of British – well English – sport is ‘The Ashes’ a series of cricket matches between England and Australia every two years, although the difference in seasons between the two hemispheres means that the series could be played up to 30 months apart.

At some point I will endeavour to explain the basics of cricket, but for now here’s a VERY simple explanation:

Imagine a baseball game where, instead of running round a diamond, the hitter (batsman) only has to run up and down a 22 yard strip. Of course if he only runs one length then he wouldn’t be able to take the next pitch (ball), so we have two batsmen on pitch at any time.

And just to complicate things, after every six balls (known as an ‘over’) the pitcher (bowler) changes ends. At each end of the strip there are three wooden posts about three feet high (stumps), and it is to those that the bowler aims the ball. There are two wooden pegs (bales) across the top of the three stumps and if those are dislodged then the batsman is declared ‘out’.


If the ball is caught after being struck by the batsman, or if the batsman is felt to have blocked the bowler’s view of the stumps then the batsman can be declared ‘out’.

Each team has eleven players, and several members of each team can pitch (bowl) during the course of the game.

In most types of cricket – such as county cricket or international cricket there are two innings, and these matches can last up to five days. Other formats include fixed duration games of 40 ‘overs’ for each side, or, more recently the new 20/20 format which only allows each team to face 20 overs (or 240 balls) each.

International cricket series are known as ‘Test’ Matches, and after the Australian team beat the English in 1882 in a ‘Test’ series, (at the south London cricket ground known as ‘The Oval’) they ceremonially cremated the stumps used in the game and published a spoof obituary in ‘The Sporting Times’ newspaper declaring the death of English cricket.

In Affectionate Remembrance
which died at the Oval
29th AUGUST, 1882,
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing
friends and acquaintances
N.B.—The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.

The next English tour of Australia was dubbed the quest to regain ‘The Ashes’ and the tradition has continued since then.

The Ashes are represented by a small urn said to contain the said ashes, but both Australia and England have replicas, and no trophy is actually exchanged.


At the time of writing there have been 64 Ashes series, Australia has won on 31 occasions, England on 28 and the series has been drawn 5 times.

A total of 64 Ashes series have been played.