‘It’s a dream come true for me’. Said Harry Brook on the eve of the much-anticipated Ashes 2023.
This was a statement coming from a player who has already represented the English team in seven tests.
And like every Ashes, mind games and sledging started before the series, with Brook igniting fire this time.
“Obviously Australia might have a little bit of extra pace, but if they bowl quicker, it tends to go to the boundary quicker,” Brook said while addressing the media ahead of the first Test in Edgbaston on June 16th.
So you would be wondering why a player feels so honored to play just another test series and is trying to inspire and provoke what is already a deadly bowling attack that just won them a World Test Championship in the same country as the Ashes in 2023.
The reason Is that it’s not just another test series.
It’s a rivalry that started some 141 years ago and is still continuing.
The two nations’ prolonged history of animosity, as well as several historic clashes throughout the years, have added to the Ashes’ enigma.
England and Australia will rekindle their famous rivalry at Edgbaston on Friday in the first Test of the latest Ashes series.
But what exactly is the Ashes, why is this series called so, and why does the competition elicit such fervor in two usually friendly countries on different ends of the globe?
It all started with a perfume jar and the headline, “The body will be cremated”.
The term ‘ASHES’ was first used after England lost to Australia for the first time on home soil at the oval on August 29, 1882.
A day later, the sports magazine Sporting Times carried a mock obituary of English cricket, which concluded that “The body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia”. The concept caught the imagination of the sporting public.
A few weeks later, an English team, captained by Ivo Bligh, set off to tour Australia, vowing to return with “the Ashes.” His Australian counterpart, WL Murdoch, similarly vowed to defend them.
As well as playing three scheduled matches against the Australian national side, Bligh and the amateur players in his team participated in many social matches. It was after one such match, outside Melbourne on Christmas Eve 1882, that Bligh was given the small terracotta perfume “Urn” as a symbol of the “Ashes” he had pledged to reclaim., which stands slightly more than 10 cm (four inches) tall, as a symbol of the ashes that he had traveled to Australia to regain.
On the same occasion, he met his future wife, Florence Morphy.
In February 1884, Bligh married Florence.
Shortly afterwards, they returned to England, taking the urn, which Bligh always regarded as a personal gift, with them. It stayed on the mantelpiece at the Bligh family home until Bligh died, 43 years later.
But after this, Florence decided to bequeath that “Urn” to the Marylebone Cricket Club museum at London’s famous Lord’s pitch.
This was enough to spark a rivalry that no one expected.
When the two teams’ desire to fight for a genuine trophy grew in the 1990s, the MCC commissioned an urn-shaped Waterford Crystal trophy after discussions with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia.
This was initially given to Mark Taylor after his Australian team won the 1998-99 Test series against England. Since then, at the conclusion of each Test series between Australia and England, the trophy has been awarded to the winning captain, along with a replica of the original “Urn.”
And if we look at the history of this rivalry, then few sporting rivalries are fiercer than the Ashes.
One example of the fierceness of this rivalry is the 1932–33 “Bodyline” series, in which England deliberately decided to bowl defensive-line fast deliveries at Australian batsmen’s bodies rather than the stumps in order to concede as few runs as they could and also in the hope that Australians would get out trying to protect themselves.
This aggressive tactic was seen as unsporting and against the spirit of the game, but England won the series to the fury of their bruised opponents.
It was like running salt on someone’s wound.
Talking about historical Ashes moments without mentioning the “Ball of the Century” to Mike Gatting from the legendary Shane Warne would be blasphemy.
Who can forget? One of the finest test series was the Ashes in 2005, where England managed to eke out a memorable series win, or Ben Stokes’ Headingley heroics in 2019.
Now the same Ben Stokes is leading the side with an approach that has not passed the eye test of many cricket purists.
Attack. Attack. Attack.
No matter what the conditions are, no matter what the situation is, no matter how many wickets are lost, no matter what the scoreboard demands, just keep attacking.
Coming back to this Ashes series, England, with their new approach to playing Test cricket, what they call “Bazball,” surely has every right to be confident in this Ashes.
But they are up against a side that recently triumphed at the highest summit of test cricket, just a few weeks ago.
And Harry Brook alarming the Australian bowlers would only add more and more fire to the Australian bowling line-up.
With the never-aging duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad and light spin bowling, England are taking too much risk by going ahead in the series.
The return of Moeen Ali from retirement will elongate the batting for sure; there is no doubt about that, but his spin bowling prowess or abilities have been on a downward spiral for a very long time.
Australian batting mainly depends upon their middle order engine consisting of Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, and Travis Head, who most likely will like to feast on this given openers blunt out the new ball spell more often than not.
They will be in a dilemma about whether they should go with the winning combination they played in the World Test Championship final, consisting of Scott Boland, or rather choose a fit Josh Hazlewood for their playing XI.
All in all, this series possesses all the ingredients to add another chapter to the history of rivalry, which already got off to a spicy start with Harry Brook once again blabbering, which might prove to be a nightmare for the youngster.ge">