There was nothing unusual about the Australian tour to England in the summer of 1882, other than the fact, only one Test match was scheduled to be played at The Oval on 28 August. It was customary at the time for only one or two Test matches to be played and it was not until several years later multiple tests would be played. A fact brought about by events yet unknown to us all, but implemented through the determination of the English attitude of winning at all cost.
In the lead up to the Test match at The Oval, Australia had won 4 out of the seven matches they had already played, needless to say, the English were looking to atone for these losses and embarrass the Australians by giving them a lesson in cricket they would never forget. England carefully chose the best possible team in order to inflict the "demanded" defeat on the Australians.
At the beginning of the match on the 28th August, Australian captain W Murdoch, having won the toss, decided the Aussies would bat first. The English bowlers decimated the batting line-up and Australia returned the paltry figures of all out for 63 runs. The Englishmen were quite amused by this small first innings total and believed they would more than eclipse such a minor score. The amusement was promptly wiped from their faces by the Australians and even though the English team managed a first innings lead of 38 runs, the total for the innings was only 101 runs.
The Aussies although feeling confident, believed the Englishmen would bounce back in their second innings and as a result, Australia would need to post a very healthy second innings lead to have any real hope of an outright win. Unfortunately luck was not on the side of the Australians, they returned another small score at the end of their second innings when they were all out for 122 runs. This left England needing only 85 runs to take victory in the match, it appeared a foregone conclusion and the Aussies were somewhat dejected with the situation.
By the time England had reached the score of 4 for 65, it appeared there was no hope of an Australian victory, how wrong the thinking was!. At one stage with 5 wickets remaining, England required only 19 runs to take the match. Events were about to overcome everyone who was at The Oval on this day. Fred Spofforth an Australian bowler who had already taken several wickets for the innings was brought back into the bowling attack and subsequently tore the English batsmen to pieces with the assistance of Henry Boyle. The English team collapsed to be all out for 77 runs leaving them short of victory by just 8 runs. The unthinkable had happened, the English had been beaten from an unassailable position, the Australians had triumphed even though the odds were against them.
Everyone at The Oval for the match could not believe what had happened, not only were the crowds in shock at the defeat, many of the players could not believe what had just transpired and were left stunned and speechless. The following day, the British press ferociously savaged the performance of the England team, they called the performance of the team "the worst in living memory". The most notable of the English press at the time, a newspaper called the Sporting Times printed an obituary to cricket which read.
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
NB: The body will be cremated, and the ashes taken to Australia.
The legend of The Ashes had been born!
Origin of the Ashes - History in the Making
This is the most legendary of all cricket series. Played between Australia and England, this series has even caused bad diplomatic relations between the two countries. When Englandís Barmy Army come up against the Aussieís at the ďGĒ...itís almost war! Learn about the origins of The Ashes with this video produced by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.