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The summer of 2019 was a memorable one for the English cricket team as it earned a 2-2 draw with old foes Australia in the Ashes series. With the fifth Test played at The Oval, England set a target of 399 and bowled out Australia for 263 to square the contest. The draw was the first in 47 years and meant that Australia got to retain the urn by virtue of having won the 2017-18 series.

Weather conditions were generally good for batting, with the Test matches played at Edgbaston, Headingley, Lord’s, The Oval and Old Trafford. The 2019 Ashes was also the first Test series of the 2019-21 ICC World Test Championship, a tournament that features nine of the twelve nations that play Test cricket. The Championship final will be played at Lord’s in June 2021.

Coming into the 2019 Ashes, Australia had won four of the previous ten series, with the 2017-18 series ending 4-0 in favour of the Australians. Since 2010-11 when England won 3-1 away, no visiting team had won the series, with Australia last winning it on foreign soil in 2001. Cumulatively, Australia held the lead in series’ wins (33) over England (32), with five series ending in a draw.

To warm-up for the Ashes, England played a three-game Test series against the West Indies, with the latter winning 2-1. Another single-match Test against Ireland was also played, with England winning by 143 runs. Australia, on the other hand, prepared for the Ashes by playing Test series against India and Sri Lanka. India won the tour series 2-1, with Australia recovering to beat Sri Lanka 2-0 in its series.

Prior to the Ashes, proceeds from the second day of the Test match at Lord’s were announced to benefit the Ruth Strauss Foundation. Named after the late wife of former England captain Andrew Strauss, the Foundation was established to fight cancer. As a special gesture, fans were encouraged to wear red, with both teams wearing red caps.

While it would have been a dream come true for England to win the Ashes in the same summer it won the World Cup, the draw with Australia was still considered a success. For ardent cricket fans such as Fiyaz Mughal, the director of Faith Matters and Tell MAMA, England’s triumphs in the sport were delightful experiences.

A Little History

The Ashes series consists of five Test matches that are hosted by Australia and England (in turn) once every couple of years. The term came from a satirical obituary posted in The Sporting Times, a British newspaper, after Australia’s first Test win in England at The Oval in 1882. The obituary jokingly touted the death of English cricket, with cremation to follow and the ashes sent to Australia. With the 1882-83 series being played in Australia, the English team captain vowed to regain the mythical ashes.

An urn was presented to the England captain after the team won two of the three Test matches, with the contents reputed to be the ashes of a burnt cricket bail. While the urn is not an official trophy, victorious teams in the Ashes series have lifted it as a symbol of victory. Since the 1998-99 series, a crystal version of the urn has been the official trophy hoisted by the winning side.

The Ashes in Popular Culture

The popularity of the Ashes series has led other games and sports to use the term for matches between Australia and England. The longest-running event is a rugby league match between the two nations, with the use of the name being suggested in 1908. Television game shows pitting Australian and English contestants have also used the name Ashes.