On this day in 1882: Demon demolishing and Ashes are born

138 years ago, at Oval, a Demon spitfire and Ashes were born. The Ashes is a cricket test series between England and Australia. The team that most recently won the series are owners of Ashes. In case of a drawn series, a team that currently holds the Ashes retains the trophy.

The two teams locked horns with each other for the first-ever test in 1877 at Melbourne. The term Ashes started later, precisely after the 9th test played in 1882. It was Australia’s tour of England and they were playing just one test at Oval in London from 28-29 Aug 1882. It happened to be a low scoring affair on a very difficult sticky wicket. Australia lead by Billy Murdoch and England were lead by Albert Hornby.

Australia won the toss elected to bat but was bundled out for 63 in first innings. England in reply made 101, gaining a precious lead of 38 runs. At end of day 1, 20 wickets had fallen for 164 runs in a total of 151.3 overs. England Batsman Ulyett was the top scorer with 26 runs and Australian bowler Spofforth was the best bowler of the day with figures of 7/46 in 37 overs. Spofforth was nicknamed as “Demon”.

Day two started with Australian batsman playing a little better in the second innings with Batsman Hugh Massie scoring a brilliant 55 of only 60 balls to take Australia to 122. This left England with only 85 to chase down and win the series. The Australian team was demoralised by their second batting collapse and looked dejected. But Demon had other ideas he kept on saying to his mates “This thing can be done”. Spofforth “Demon” then devastated England again in second innings, as he had done in first, taking last 4 wickets for two runs to leave England 7 runs short of victory.

WG Grace had scored 32 but Spofforth stole the limelight by taking 7/44. The unexpected had happened and the whole of England, including Media, was shell shocked. It was the first time England had been beaten in England. On 02nd Sep 1882, a celebrated mock obituary appeared in “ The Sporting Times” which read as

In Affectionate Remembrance of ENGLISH CRICKET,

which died at the Oval on 29 August 1882,

Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances


N.B. – The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia

From this day onwards the test series between these two teams was termed as Ashes.

Total 335 tests have been played between two countries (including the 2019 Ashes test series)  Australia have won 136, England has won 108 and 91  have drawn. Australia leads the total series count of 71 with 33-32 .6  series have drawn.

Note: Denom name was given to Fred Spofforth after he dismissed WG Grace in 1878. Such was the noteworthy occasion that he was given sobriquote of “The Demon”.