The Ashes is a series of cricket matches between England and Australia. It is held at least once every two years and is hosted by the country that won the last time. The Ashes this year is being hosted in England and there will be test (international level) matches throughout June and July in five venues in London, Leeds and Manchester.
In 1882, the Australian cricket team the English team for the first time in England. Shortly after, there was a satirical obituary in a magazine called The Sporting Times, which stated that English cricket had died and "the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia".
During a tour of Australia, after having won two out of three test matches, Ivo Bligh (the captain of the English cricket team) was presented with a small urn (a jar for remains) which is thought to contain the ashes of a cricket bail from the 1882 match in England. This urn is not used as a trophy, but teams hold up a replica if they win a majority of test matches within a tour. This replica doesn’t contain any ashes.
So now, English and Australian men’s and women’s teams compete for The Ashes, which aren’t actual ashes but essentially a reference to the first time England was beaten by Australia in England. Confused yet??
What’s the point of cricket?
Fundamentally, cricket is very simple and many cultures around the world have a similar game. The game is played between two teams of 11, who alternate between batting (trying to hit ball) and fielding (trying to catch the ball). The aim of the game is to score as many runs as possible before all the players in a team are caught out while batting (either by missing balls, a hit ball being caught, or by the bowler hitting the wickets with the ball). An over refers to 6 balls that a bowler throw. Cricket test match takes between 4 and 5 days to complete and contains 4 innings (when the team takes it’s turn to bat, each team has 2 innings). There are three types of cricket match: a test match with 90 overs per day, a one-day match with 100 overs and a twenty20 match where each team only faces 20 overs.
Spending an entire day (or more) watching a match might seem to some rather tedious, but spectators treat this as a day out, bringing a picnic and alcoholic drinks like Pimm’s (a fruit flavoured liqueur usually mixed with lemonade and fresh summer fruit or cucumber).
In between overs there’s a long queue at the bar for beer and cider. You can also see people in fancy dress at certain matches, very often rather drunk after too many visits to the aforementioned bar!
Cricket was started in the 18th century in England and was played, at the beginning, only by gentleman. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the game was taken to other members of the British Empire and later the Commonwealth where it remains an extremely popular sport - more popular even than football, especially in India and Pakistan.
Cricket and language
Because its roots are firmly in England, Cricket is considered a quintessentially English game, and it has had a great influence on the English language.
Below are some phrases (with definitions) which have originated in the game.
to have a good innings – to have enjoyed a positive period of time. It’s often used to describe someone who has lived a long life. Example: “I heard that Tom passed away last week. Well, he was 95. He had a good innings”
be cricket – to play fair, to use gentlemanly conduct (usually used in the negative) Example: “The way the CEO treated the Finance Director was not cricket”
to be bowled over – to be astonished by something, to be left speechless. Example: “I went to see King Lear the other day at the theatre. I was bowled over by the leading actor’s performance”.
to be stumped – to have no idea, to not know how to solve a problem. Example: “I really don’t know how to fix this problem. I am completely stumped“.
to catch someone out – to outwit someone. Example: “It was obvious that Peter didn’t know what he was talking about when the CEO caught him out. I felt so sorry for Peter“. adapted from https://englishwithatwist.com/2013/12/13/8-cricket-idioms-that-are-used-in-british-english/
For more information on how to watch The Ashes follow this link:
Many pubs show The Ashes on their big screens, and it can be a really fun way to watch the match with both English and Australian fans.