Cricket News 23/11/02
A plan for the Ashes urn to be displayed in Melbourne and Sydney, during the current Ashes Test Series, has been postponed on the advice of independent conservation experts.
For several months, the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) and Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) have been discussing displaying the Ashes urn in Australia in December and January this season.
But expert advice has concluded that there is a real risk of breakage if the urn, in its current condition, is subject to unnecessary movement and to changes in humidity and pressure.
Its current fragility has been caused, in particular, by the degeneration of some adhesive that was used to repair the urn at least 75 years ago. This adhesive, in the crucial area between the urn's stem and foot, needs to be removed before it can degenerate any further.
Accordingly, the urn will soon be removed from display in the MCC Museum at Lord's for further expert analysis and subsequent repair.
This process will include an X-ray examination of the urn, to identify any other problems which may not be apparent to the naked eye.
ACB Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland said it was disappointing that the Australian public would not be able to see the urn during the current Ashes tour. He added:
“However, we are pleased that the MCC is still keen to plan a future visit. We look forward to completing our role in the planning process once the restoration of the urn has been completed.”
MCC Secretary and Chief Executive Roger Knight said:
“We had hoped to display the Ashes urn in Australia this winter. We are deeply disappointed that these plans have had to be put on hold.”
“However, we simply could not ignore the emphatic and authoritative advice that we received. Our absolute priority is to ensure that the urn receives expert attention from leading conservation specialists as a matter of urgency.”
“Once the work has been completed, and the current risk of breakage has been ended, we hope it will prove possible for the urn to be displayed in Australia.”
“Indeed, we intend to complete the important preparatory work that has been undertaken over recent weeks in conjunction with our insurers and the Australian Cricket Board.”
“As well as sharing our disappointment over the postponement of the proposed Ashes display, the ACB shares the MCC's belief in the importance of safeguarding this tiny but irreplaceable piece of sporting history. We are grateful to the ACB for its understanding and support.”
* In 1998, the MCC commissioned a Waterford crystal trophy, modelled on the Ashes urn, which is now presented to the winner of each Ashes series. This trophy was first presented to the Australians after their success in the 1998-99 series, and will be presented to the winner of the current series by the MCC's President, Sir Tim Rice.
The Waterford trophy is currently touring Australia on the Travelex Cricket Roadshow and will arrive at the Adelaide Oval today.
* In 1948, after the 4-0 series victory by Bradman's touring "Invincibles", the MCC presented a 24 centimetre-high replica of the Ashes urn to the Australian Board of Control for International Cricket. It is currently held by the ACB.
* The term "Ashes" was first used after England lost to Australia - for the first time on home soil - at The Oval on 29 August 1882. A day later, the Sporting Times carried a mock obituary to English cricket which concluded that "The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia".
A few weeks later, an English team, captained by the Hon Ivo Bligh (later Lord Darnley) , set off to tour Australia. The side lost the first of the three scheduled Tests but won the next two, prompting a group of Melbourne ladies (including Miss Florence Rose Morphy - Bligh's future wife) to burn one of the bails used in the third Test, put it in a small brown urn, and present it to Bligh.
Bligh subsequently took the urn back to England, where it is now owned and displayed by the MCC at Lord's.
* The four-inch, or 10 centimetre, urn has rarely moved from Lord's, but was displayed in Australia for the bicentennial celebrations in 1988.