The Strange Story of a Cremated Cricket Ball
For more than a century, a cricket series of games has been played biennially between Australia and England. The series itself, named The Ashes, is among the hottest rivalries in the international cricket scene, and because the two countries are located in opposite hemispheres, the games are scheduled for the summer season in the country in which each tournament takes place, alternating between being hosted in England and in Australia. The prize for the Ashes tournament is a tall marble urn, similar to the engraved crematory urns in which people keep the remains of their loved ones–but instead of the human remains contained in crematory urns, this particular marble urn is reputed to contain the “remains” of a burned cricket ball.
The story behind this strangely named–and strangely rewarded–cricket series dates from an 1882 cricket match between the two countries, following which a satirical obituary (for the losing British team) appeared in a British newspaper. It was the first time Britain had lost to Australia, and the obituary claimed that English cricket itself had died on the field of play, and its ashes would be removed to Australia. Playing on the widely publicized satire, a group of women in Melbourne presented this marble urn to the captain of the Australian team, and the trophies for this tournament in the century-plus since have been replica crematory urns. Britain currently has the urn in its possession, but Australia will challenge once again on British soil in the year 2013.