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Cricket in the Archives

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Cricket in the Archives

Jack Hobbs examines the 'Force' cricket bat, 1911. Catalogue reference COPY 1-555

Jack Hobbs examines the 'Force' cricket bat, 1911. Catalogue reference COPY 1-555

17 August 2009

Ashes to Ashes

As the England cricket team head into the final test of the 2009 Ashes drawn 1-1 with their Antipodean rivals, The National Archives reveals the origin of the fiercely-fought rivalry.

Death of English cricket

On 29 August 1882, Australia beat the English side at the Oval by just seven runs. The following day The Sporting Times ran a satirical obituary announcing the death of English cricket – declaring that the 'body' would be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. Later that year, Ivo Bligh led a team to Australia to recover the ashes… the eternal contest had begun!

Census

Anxious fans can take comfort in some of England's past triumphs, such as the 1911 series, the last held before the outbreak of the First World War, when the England team won the Ashes 4-1. Most of the winning team can be found in the 1911 census, including:

  • John Berry 'Jack' Hobbs, the hero of the series who was recorded as living in Mitcham, Surrey five months before the team departed for Australia
  • Herbert 'Bert' Strudwick who described himself as a professional cricketer
  • Charles Phillip Mead who made his first test appearance in the 1911 Ashes.

2009 Ashes

Among the 1911 census entries for Preston, we can find one Mary Flintoff, Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff's great, great-grandmother, who worked as a cotton weaver. Almost a century later, her much-lauded descendant fights his last Ashes contest; anything less than outright victory and Australia will retain the Ashes for another year.

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