2015 Ashes will be the most important

The forthcoming Ashes Series to be held in England from July 2015 may well be the most important in living memory.

There are several reasons for this – but the main one is that since the Ashes series are deemed to have begun back in 1882, the current score is 32 victories to Australia, 31 victories to England and five drawn from 68 series played.  So England, on home soil, will be absolutely desperate to level what will then be a 133 year-old cricket scoreboard. What’s more, they’ll be particularly keen to do so after their five to zero whitewash in the last Ashes series in Australia; one they had entered with very high hopes of winning overall!

The Aussies have the edge

Also – the bare stats don’t tell the whole story. When we dig a little deeper into Ashes series statistics, it becomes even clearer that Australia have the upper hand. If we look at the overall test match tally, for example, then Australia have won 126 times compared to just 103 test wins for England, whilst 88 test matches have been drawn.

Similarly, over the 130 years between 1883 and 1913, the Australians have held the Ashes for over 76 years, whilst England’s tally is just over 53 years. Whenever an Ashes series is drawn, the previously winning side is deemed to have retained the trophy, in the same way as happens with the Ryder Cup in golf. In other words – one side or the other always holds the Ashes at any given point in time – and for most of its history, the Ashes trophy has been in Australian hands.

And finally, Australian players have managed to notch up 264 centuries between them in the 68 Ashes Test series to date (and 23 of these have been double centuries or better) whilst the equivalent score for English players is 212 centuries, ten of which have been scores of 200 or more.

England’s resolve to be put to the test

All these stats will make the home side even more determined to level things up in the summer of 2015. But the odds don’t favour the home nation’s chances at the moment. Currently with Betfair, Australia are 1-2 favorites to retain The Ashes in 2015. Of course, the word “retain” here takes account of the draw as Australia would be deemed to have retained the trophy in the event of the series being drawn. But England, on home soil and following their Australian drubbing last time will be absolutely desperate to win back the Ashes – and recent history is very much on their side.

England have won the last three Ashes series held in their own country; it seems to be becoming something of a happy habit for English cricketers. The home side is best-priced 7-4 to win with Betfair and around 6-4 with conventional bookmakers to win the 2015 Ashes series – which appears an interesting punt.

If you see an Ashes series in the modern age held in England as essentially a 50-50 affair – then you’d back England all day long at the odds. But their recent form has been poor, of course, hence the relatively long odds.

Pieterson-fuelled discord

Also – general discord in the English camp hasn’t been helped by all the recent revelations by Kevin Pieterson . The South Africa-born Pieterson is England’s top all-time run-scorer but he has shaken the cricket world up quite a bit of late, by suggesting he could still play international cricket for England, and that he would do if he was given the chance and if Giles Clarke was to be replaced by someone else as chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board (the ECB).

But England’s best ever wicket taker, James Anderson, recently said that he can’t really see Kevin Pieterson making an international come-back after all the water that has flowed underneath the bridge since his departure. Anderson was Pieterson’s team-mate during England’s very successful period with Andy Flower in charge as coach. This period saw England win three Ashes series and the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka in 2012. This was the first time England had won the trophy. To date, no nation has won more than one Twenty20 World Cup with India, Pakistan, the West Indes and Sri Lanka – along with England – having won one each – whilst Sri Lanka are the current holders having triumphed in Bangladesh in April 2014.

Kevin Pietersen has said that he didn’t really like the way his international career came to an end, and used his recent book, “KP: The Autobiography”, to level criticism at the ECB, his former boss Andy Flower and quite a few of his ex-team-mates – saving the worst for England and Sussex wicket-keeper, Matt Prior.

The 2015 Ashes – and more…

Anyway – back to the Ashes and it seems England will be facing the Australians next summer without Pieterson – barring some miracle. His book will surely not have helped ease his potential path back into England’s international set-up, but his absence is to England’s detriment if the cold hard statistics are anything to go by.

England will open their campaign to win back the Ashes outside their own country, but not too far away – in Cardiff, Wales, in July 2015. The first match of the series starts here on the 8th of July, followed by the second Test at Lord’s cricket ground from July 16th.

Next up are Edgbaston in Birmingham and Nottingham’s Trent Bridge ground, with The Kia Oval in Kennington the venue for the fifth and final Test on August 20th.

Following the Ashes series in 2015, England will play Australia in a Twenty20 game in Cardiff again. The two countries will then fight out five one day matches at the Ageas Bowl (Hampshire’s ground in Southampton), Lord’s, Old Trafford in Manchester and Headingley in Leeds.

It will be a busy summer for England as they also play host to New Zealand in 2015. The “Black Caps” start their English tour in May with test matches against Worcestershire and Somerset and before the first Test at the MCC, Lord’s on May 21st. Yorkshire’s Headingley ground will host the second and final Test – before the two sides slug it out in one day cricket. The one day internationals between the two sides will be played at Edgbaston, The Kennington Oval, the Ageas Bowl, Nottingham’s Trent Bridge and Durham’s Chester-le-Street ground – whilst Old Trafford will host an England versus New Zealand Twenty20 match.

But without wishing to disrespect New Zealand in any way whatsoever (they have taught the world that their cricket should be highly respected over recent years) it’s really all about the main Ashes series for fans of both English and Australian cricket all around the world. This is really where it’s at for cricket fans. And no other test series between any two countries has the same edge to it and magic that the Ashes offers.

Why “Ashes” – and where did it all begin?

And if you’re wondering why the trophy and series is termed “Ashes” and how it all began, then here’s a very brief potted history…

Originally, it was a satirical mock “obituary” from an English newspaper of the time “The Sporting Times”, following Australia’s 1882 win at the Oval. This was their first victory at cricket on English soil and the newspaper said that English cricket had sadly passed away – adding that the body will now be cremated and – you’ve guessed it – the “ashes” will be taken to Australia.

The press and public in both England and Australia quickly seized upon the term and by the time of the next series in Australia the following southern hemisphere summer in 1882–83, the Ashes were already being spoken of. In fact, the English captain for the tour, a man by the name of Ivo Bligh, promised to “regain those ashes” from Australia (something he subsequently did). The English press quickly then called the tour a quest to regain the “Ashes” and a legend (and bitter rivalry it has to be said…) was born.

When the visitors, under the determined stewardship of Mr Bligh, won two of the requisite three Tests on the 1882–83 tour, a group of ladies from Melbourne presented the English captain with an urn. The urn, it was said, contained the ashes of wooden bails, and were said to be “the ashes of Australian cricket”. At the time, the urn was described as being a tiny silver one. But following the death of Ivo Bligh in 1927, his widow presented a small terracotta urn to the MCC. So it isn’t exactly clear to this day if there were two urns or some mix up in describing the original one. But if anyone should have known, it was the widow herself. That’s because she was Florence Morphy, one of the ladies from Melbourne who had presented Captain Bligh (no relation to the master of the infamous “Bounty” on which there was a famous mutiny by the way!) with the mock trophy originally. The two were married within a year of her presenting the “ashes” to Ivo Bligh.

In marring Ivo Bligh, Florence became a member of the peerage; as her husband was the Count of Darnley, she became Countess of Darnley, DBE. Florence and Ivo married at Rupertswood, just outside Melbourne, in February 1884. Lady Florence was also made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, in 1919. She outlived her husband by 17 years, dying in 1944 and goes down in history as the main creator of the Ashes legend, along with her husband of course.

Interestingly, though, the urn presented has never, to this day, been the official Ashes trophy. Nevertheless, the victorious side often holds up a replica of the tiny urn to symbolize their win.

In more recent years, since the 1998–99 Ashes series held in Australia (and won by the hosts), a Waterford Crystal urn, which is the “Ashes Trophy” has been given to the winners of the series. But whoever holds the trophy at any given time, the urn resides in MCC’s Museum at Lord’s cricket ground. It has, though, made two visits to Australia on tour – first to help mark the Australian Bicentenary in 1988, and again to help promote the Ashes series of 2006–07 (which Australia won).

So what happens next and where’s the value?

So what happens next? Well for cricket fans the world over, next summer’s Ashes series could be the best yet. It’s certainly the most important series from an English perspective for many a long year. For a long time in recent history, from 1989 until 2005, Australia dominated the Ashes series.

But since then, England have won four from six including one series in Australia during the Aussie summer of 2010-11 – the first time this had happened since the 1986–87 series down-under. English fans, though, are understandably concerned that a combination of the five-nil whitewash last time, the discord in the camp and the general absence of form may be turning the tide back the Australians’ way.

In other words, the 2015 Ashes series could well be a watershed moment from England’s point of view. There are two basic possibilities; either England win it and overall parity is restored along with a huge amount of respect – or the Australians win, go two clear in the overall tally since the series began and threaten to pull away again.

But given that the series looks evenly balanced, the obvious value punt for gamblers is on a home victory. If England can win the first test in Cardiff, then momentum could easily carry them through the rest. You can never write off the Aussies though – so it promises to be the best series yet – it’s certainly a vital one for the home nation!