Everyone had been expecting England to win. England had the best players in the world, and Australia was but a colony where the game had begun being played only recently. The result caused a sensation.
A second Test was played beginning on 31 March, but this time the Australians could not match their performance of that first game. England won by 4 wickets, and the first Test series was drawn 1-1. But the fact that it wasn't the whitewash everyone had been expecting made the tour a roaring success, and it was agreed that further international tours should take place.
The next tour was an English side led by Lord Harris visiting Australia in 1878-79. The only Test played began on 2 January, 1879, at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Australia won by 10 wickets, thanks to a brilliant bowling performance by Fred "The Demon" Spofforth, who took 13-110 in the match, and claimed the first hat trick in Test cricket.
The first Australian side to tour England did so in 1880, playing one Test at Kennington Oval in London. England won by 5 wickets. England toured Australia again in 1881-82, playing four Tests in a series that Australia won 2-0.
England needed only 85 runs to win in the last innings, and many thought it inevitable that the required runs would be scored. Fred Spofforth, who had led the Australian attack with 7-46 in England's first innings spurred his team mates on by declaring, "This thing can be done." But England reached 51 runs for the loss of only 2 wickets, and all seemed lost for the Australians. Then Spofforth claimed the wicket of George Ulyett and two runs later Grace was out to a catch off the bowling of Henry Boyle. With only 32 more runs required, Spofforth and Boyle sent down 12 successive maiden overs. Finally England scored another run, but four more maidens followed and the tension mounted around the ground. With the pressure building on the English batsmen, they began playing indecisively and wickets started falling.
It is recorded that a spectator at the ground "gnawed out pieces from his umbrella handle" as the game drew slowly to an agonising, thrilling finish. The English batsmen were certainly not immune to the pressure, one having "ashen grey lips" as he walked out to the middle, "his throat so parched he could hardly speak." Helped by 2 wickets from Boyle, Spofforth captured 4 wickets for only 2 runs in his last 11 overs. England's last five batsmen contributed only 7 runs, and England were all out for 77, giving Australia victory by 7 runs - still one of the 6th closest results in history. The Australians carried Spofforth from the ground on their shoulders.
But that was not the end of it. At the end of the week, the Sporting Times published the most famous obituary in sporting history:
In Affectionate Remembrance Of ENGLISH CRICKET WHICH DIED AT THE OVAL On 29th August, 1882, Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances R. I. P. N.B. - The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.
In 1882-83 the Hon. Ivo Bligh led an English side to Australia. The media played it up as a quest to "recover the Ashes" of English cricket. At some point during the tour, a small wooden urn containing some ashes was presented to Bligh. The traditional story is that the contents of the urn were the ashes of a bail used in the Third Test, and that the urn was presented by a group of Melbourne women when England won the 3-Test series 2-1. (A fourth Test on the tour was arranged later, but did not form part of the series. Australia won it.) In 1982 evidence came to light suggesting that the Ashes were those of a ball and the urn was presented to Bligh by Sir William Clarke in a ceremony before the 1882-83 Test series began, but this has not been proven.
Ever since, the Test cricket contests between England and Australia have been played "for the Ashes". Bligh (having subsequently inherited the title of Lord Darnley) died in 1927. His widow presented the urn to the MCC, who keep it to this day in the the museum at Lord's Cricket Ground. The urn is not physically presented to the winning side, but remains in the Lord's museum at all times. It has left Lord's only once, for a museum tour of Australia during the Bicentennial celebrations in 1988. On this tour, Lloyds of London refused to offer insurance for the Ashes, stating that it was a priceless artefact and they could not possibly afford any reasonable cash payout if the urn was damaged or lost. The Ashes urn is only 10 centimetres high, and in delicate physical condition.
It has long been a sticking point with Australian cricket fans that the Ashes urn always resides in London, regardless of which side currently "posseses" it. In order to redress this imbalance, the MCC commissioned a larger replica of the urn made of Waterford crystal in 1998. This was first presented to Australian captain Mark Taylor after the 1998-99 Ashes series.
South Africa lost every match in home series against England in 1891/92, 1895/96, 1898/99. They achieved their first draw in their first match against Australia, when Australia toured South Africa for the first time in 1902/03. They finally achieved a win against England in Johannesburg in 1905/06 - a series the South Africans dominated and won 4-1, giving them their first series victory. South Africa's first overseas tour was the tour to England in 1907.
It is commonly believed that cricket is not an Olympic sport in the present day due to relative obscurity and being played by too few countries. In reality, according to the International Olympic Committee regulations on allowable sports, cricket easily satisfies the criterion for organised competition in the required minimum number of countries. In terms of popularity, cricket is enjoyed by more people than any other sport in the world, apart from soccer. The reason cricket is not an Olympic sport is because it fails the IOC's criterion that specifies that the men's and women's versions of the sport must be organised by a single international administrative body. The International Cricket Council administrates only men's cricket.
The Triangular Tournament was an early attempt to make cricket more popular by involving all three Test nations in the one competition. However, attendance was poor and the tournament was regarded as a disaster, so the experiment was not repeated.
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