The Ashes cricket series is played between the English and Australian test sides. Dating back to 1882, The Ashes is one of the most celebrated rivalries in international cricket and is fiercely fought over a 5-test series.
The 'Ashes' namesake came about after the English were remarkably defeated on the 1882 tour. The press published a mock obituary lamenting the death of English Cricket and went on to state that the 'body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.' The English press then dubbed the following tour 'the quest to regain the ashes' - which, under Captain Ivo Bligh's leadership, they did.
Ivo Bligh was presented with a small, terracotta urn during the 1882-1883 tour. The urn's contents are rumoured to be the ashes of cricket equipment, however, this has been a source of much argument in the past. The urn went on to become the trophy for the Ashes Series, as it does to this day. However, the urn is no longer physically rewarded to the victorious country due to its fragile nature - instead there has been an urn fashioned out of Waterford Crystal that is presented to the winning team each series.
After the Ashes were 'regained' in the 1882-1883 tour, England went on to experience a long period of dominance - the English lost only 4 of 23 matches played in the 1880s. It was in 1920, after a mixed bag of results, that Australia took control of the Ashes and world cricket at large. Australia won the first 8 matches consecutively, while the English only won 1 out of 15 from the end of WWI until 1925.
To date, there has been a total of 63 Ashes series played, of which Australia has won 31 and England has won 27 - the remaining five series were drawn. The series are played in Australia and England alternatively, and each match is generally played at a different cricket ground. The grounds that are currently used in Australia include: the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground); the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground, the Adelaide Oval, the WACA in Perth, the Brisbane Exhibition Ground and The Gabba.
The public interest in the Ashes series is growing, especially after the close results of the 2005 tour. The rivalry between the two teams has boosted the popularity of the sport in both nations and the series continues to be a sell-out.