The game of cricket was first played in south-east England as early as the mid 1500s. By the 1700s, cricket was being played at schools and universities, on village greens throughout the English countryside and had become quite the spectators sport.
In the late 1780s the game of cricket had become so popular that a set of rules was drawn up by the newly formed Marylebone Cricket Club, the MCC. The MCC continued to be the meeting place for the revision of the laws and was the wealthiest cricket club in the British Isles. Based at Lord's Cricket Ground in London, the Marylebone Cricket Club is today represented by the England Test cricket team.
During the 19thcentury cricket was introduced to Australia. The sport grew as the number of British emigrants increased. As colonies developed; Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) so did cricketing rivalry which led to intercolonial matches between the states. The first recorded game of cricket played in Australia was in Hyde Park, Sydney, 1803.
On New Year's Day, 1862, the first English team to visit Australia, captained by H. H. Stephenson, played its first match on the Melbourne Cricket Ground, known as the MCG. In front of a good crowd, the Englishmen soundly defeated the 22 players representing the home side. By the time Stephenson's team had left the shores of Australia, a tradition had been born and a great rivalry had begun that continues to this day - Australia versus England.
On august 28 and 29 of 1882 a strong Australian team captained by Billy Murdock played a test match at the Oval in London. Australia defeated England in a close match, winning by seven runs. Followers of English cricket were devastated by the results. The masters of cricket had been beaten.
The London Sporting Times newspaper published a fake obituary notice lamenting the death of English cricket. It read "In affectionate remembrance of English cricket which died at the Oval on 29thAugust 1882, deeply lamented by a large circle or sorrowing friends and acquaintances. R.I.P. N.B - The body will be cremated, and the ashes taken to Australia".
When England next toured Australia, at the invitation of the Melbourne Cricket Club, three matches were organized to be played against the Australian team that won at the Oval in London. Australia won the first test and England won the second match and the deciding game.
It was after Australia's loss that a group of Melbourne ladies burned a bail and its ashes were placed in a small urn and presented to the English captain Ivo Bligh as "the ashes of English cricket". The urn was labeled 'The Ashes'. Ivo Bligh took the urn back to England, where it now resides at the Memorial Gallery at Lords.
This is how the tradition of The Ashes cricket series between England and Australia began. .