It got started with a death notice … takes place in two different countries… and women have had their own version since 1934. This is your Squiz Kids Shortcut to The Ashes—the podcast where we dive into the who, what, when, where, why and how of the big news stories. I’m Amanda Bower.
And I’m Bryce Corbett.
Australia excels at lots of different sports, Bryce – rugby, swimming, AFL of course… but one of the first games we really made a name for ourselves in – before we were even a nation – is cricket.
Today, we’ll take you through WHY the Ashes are one of the most important fixtures on Australia’s sporting schedule; WHO some of the heroes of Ashes past have been; and HOW the women’s series is different from the men’s.
Listen carefully – there’s a S’quiz at the end!
Bryce, if you’d like to understand why the Ashes are so important, I’ll just get you to step over here into the Squiz Kids time machine. I’m going to take you back … way back… to 1882.
(In posh English accent) I say… we appear to be at the Oval.
That’s right, home of English cricket. We’re at a match between England and Australia, and although the visitors are struggling, there’s an Australian fast bowler who just won’t give up. “This thing can be DONE,” Fred Spofforth tells his teammates, and takes FOUR wickets for only TWO runs! England’s last batsman comes to the crease, needing ten runs to win, but he’s bowled after scoring only two. Australia has won! The crowd falls silent, finding it almost impossible to believe that mighty England has lost at its home ground.
Carn Aussie!!! Sorry, but I love a bit of national pride.
Well, at that point Australia wasn’t even a nation yet. It was still a colony of England! For England to lose, and to lose on their home turf to a colony… well, it was a bit of a slap in the face.
Aha… so it wasn’t just about cricket, it was about little brother having a win over big brother.
Yup. At the start, I think that was definitely one of the reasons why lots of people paid attention to the Ashes. Plus, there’s that catchy name…
Tell me more about that.
Well, after the English team lost, a British newspaper called The Sporting Times published a mock death notice. It said… “In Affectionate Remembrance of English Cricket, which died at the Oval on 29th August, 1882. Rest In Peace. The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”
But were there actually ashes?
Nope! But that didn’t stop the English captain from promising that he’d win back the ashes, and restore English pride, when his team toured Australia a year later. England did in fact win, and a group of Melbourne women with a cracking sense of humour presented Bligh with an urn—that’s a thing used to store ashes in—that supposedly contained the ashes of some burned cricket bails.
So now there were real ashes, and a real rivalry. And the name stuck?
Basically. And nowadays, at least once every two years, Australia and England battle it out in a best-of-five test match series. It’s held either in the Australian summer, with the famous Boxing Day test in Melbourne… or in the English summer, with Lords being my personal favourite location.
Tell me, Amanda, WHO are some of the heroes of the Ashes over the years?
Well, you can’t talk Aussie cricket without talking Don Bradman.
Ah, the Don. Surely the best batsman to ever play the game.
Couldn’t agree more. When he was just 21, in the 1930 Ashes, the Don scored 974 runs when he batted seven times during the five tests. I know you could do this maths, Bryce, but in case you don’t have a pen and paper, that’s an average of 139.14 runs per inning.
Probably the UGLIEST Ashes series was the next one, in 1932-33, when the English came up with a way to try to stop the Don from walloping them. Known as Bodyline, the English bowlers would pitch the ball AT the bodies of the Aussie batsmen, with the idea that, when they defended their heads with the bat, the ball would be deflected into an easy catch. It worked for them—they won the series 4-1—but they were famously accused by the Australian captain of not playing cricket.
It was seen as going completely against the sportsmanship that cricket had been known for.
And for years afterwards, relations between England and Australia were affected, even though the rules of cricket were changed to stop it happening again. As for Don Bradman, he went on to captain Australia, and played his last test match for Australia in the 1948 Ashes series. His career test batting average of 99.94 is said by many to be the greatest achievement by any athlete in any major sport. Ever.
The English breathed a sigh of relief when Bradman retired, that’s for sure. You mentioned a new format for the women… HOW is the women’s Ashes different from the men’s?
Well, Bryce, the men play 5 test matches, each of which lasts five days or less and consists of each side batting twice. The women play ONE test, three one day international games, where each side bowls 50 overs, and three Twenty20 games, where each side bowls only 20 overs to the other. So basically, the women’s Ashes are fast and furious.
We all know the Aussie women have been the best in the world for many years, so it’s probably not surprising that they have won more titles than the English. Tell me about the superstar women of the Ashes.
Aussie women have been facing off against the English since 1934, and just like our men do, they have more wins under their belts than their rivals – just like our men do. The two biggest heroes of the Australian women’s teams are Betty Wilson, who played from 1948 to 1953 and took a record number of wickets – 53 from just 9 matches. As of June 21, 2023, Ellyse Perry holds the record for BOTH the most runs scored, and the most wickets taken, in the Ashes.
Talk about an all-rounder! And talk about a treat – a whole season of cricket to watch!
1. What was the name given to the type of bowling the English used against Don Bradman and his team in 1932-33?
2. How many tests do the women play in their Ashes series?
3. If the Ashes are played in summer, and they started on June 22, 2023, where would they be taking place?