The name Test stems from the long, gruelling match being a “test” of the relative strengths of the two sides. The first officially recognised Test match began on 15 March 1877 and ended on 19 March 1877 and was played between England and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), where Australia won by 45 runs.
The Ashes series is currently played once every two years, alternating in location between the United Kingdom and Australia. Due to the preference that cricket be played in the summer and the difference in seasons between the two hemispheres, the actual break can range between 18 and 30 months. The Ashes urn, made of terracotta and about 15 cm and 6 inches tall, is reputed to contain a burnt cricket bail. The term ‘Ashes’ was first used after England lost to Australia – for the first time on home soil – at The Oval on 29th August 1882. A day later, the Sporting Times carried a mock obituary of English cricket which concluded that: The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. The English media dubbed the next English tour to Australia (1882–83) as the quest to regain The Ashes.
A series of “The Ashes” comprises five Test matches, two innings per match, under the regular rules for international Test-match cricket. If a series is drawn then the country already holding the Ashes retains them.
The urn is erroneously believed by some to be the trophy of the Ashes series, but it has never been formally adopted as such and Bligh always considered it to be a personal gift. Replicas of the urn are often held aloft by victorious teams as a symbol of their victory in an Ashes series, but the actual urn has never been presented or displayed as a trophy in this way. Whichever side holds the Ashes, the urn normally remains in the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum at Lord’s since being presented to the MCC by Bligh’s widow upon his death. Since the 1998–99 Ashes series, a Waterford Crystal representation of the Ashes urn has been presented to the winners of an Ashes series as the official trophy. Since 1929 the urn has returned to Australia only twice – once when it was brought to Sydney for the Bicentenary Test Match in 1988 and secondly in 2006 for the tour of the Ashes Exhibition to each state capital of Australia.
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