The Ashes History :
The term 'Ashes' was first used after England lost to Australia - for the first time on home soil - at The Oval on 29th August 1882. A day later, the Sporting Times carried a mock obituary to English cricket which concluded that: "The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia". The concept caught the imagination of the sporting public. A few weeks later, an English team, captained by the Hon Ivo Bligh [later Lord Darnley], set off to tour Australia, with Bligh vowing to return with "the ashes"; his Australian counterpart, WL Murdoch, similarly vowed to defend them.
As well as playing three scheduled matches against the Australian national side, Bligh and the amateur players in his team participated in many social matches. It was after one such match, at the Rupertswood Estate outside Melbourne on Christmas Eve 1882, that Bligh was given the small terracotta urn as a symbol of the ashes that he had travelled to Australia to regain. On the same occasion, he met his future wife - Florence Morphy - who was the companion to Lady Janet Clarke, mistress of Rupertswood, and governess to the Clark children.
In February 1884, Bligh married Florence. Shortly afterwards, they returned to England, taking the urn - which Bligh always regarded as a personal gift - with them. It stayed on the mantelpiece at the Bligh family home - Cobham Hall, near Rochester in Kent - until Bligh died, 43 years later. At his request, Florence bequeathed the urn to MCC. Today, over 75 years on, the tiny, delicate and irreplaceable artefact resides in the MCC Museum at Lord's. Each year, it is seen by tens of thousands of visitors, from all parts of the world.
In the 1990s, recognising the two teams' desire to compete for an actual trophy, MCC commissioned - after discussions with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia - an urn-shaped Waterford Crystal trophy (see right).
This was first presented to Mark Taylor after his Australian side emerged triumphant in the 1998-99 Test series against England. Since then, the trophy has been presented to the winning captain at the end of each Test series between Australia and England.
Match begins in: 8:51
Umpires : Aleem Dar and BR Doctrove
TV umpire AL Hill
Match referee JJ Crowe
Reserve umpire PR Reiffel
Team news :
Michael Clarke's back is the major worry for Australia but he has proved his fitness and Ponting does not consider him a risk. Peter Siddle will play his first Test since January after beating Doug Bollinger for the final bowling spot, and Xavier Doherty will make his debut. Usman Khawaja and Doug Bollinger are heading to Perth after the toss to play for New South Wales.
Australia Team : 1 Simon Katich, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Marcus North, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Xavier Doherty, 10 Peter Siddle, 11 Ben Hilfenhaus.
England Team : have known their best XI for months and there will be no deviating unless someone trips over a sprinkler head, or slips in the nets. No touring team since the great West Indies outfits of the 1980s has been so assured before a series in Australia.
England 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Ian Bell, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn.
Pitch and conditions :
If the results of the Gabba this season are followed, the match won't last five days. The square remains soft from a spring of heavy rain, but the pitch is firm and a light shade of green. Showers are forecast throughout the game, with the cloud cover and extra moisture exciting the bowlers. Ben Hilfenhaus smiled broadly last night when he noticed it was raining. Add in the humidity and temperatures in the high 20s, and it's going to be a contest controlled by the fast men.
The Ashes 2010-2011 News :
Michael Clarke has conquered his first major obstacle to proving his fitness for the opening Ashes Test while Peter Siddle has firmed as Australia's third bowler for the Gabba. Clarke batted in the nets for almost an hour on Tuesday and played a full range of shots without any noticeable discomfort from his degenerative back problem.
England's coach, Andy Flower has hit back at suggestions that Kevin Pietersen is "an outcast" in the England team, a choice of words used by Shane Warne in a newspaper interview on Monday, in which he blamed the selectors for sacking Pietersen as captain in January 2009 and in so doing damaging his previously impenetrable ego.
The latest instalment of the 133-year Australia-England battle begins with one team trying to form unity out of disarray and the other hoping their perfect preparation turns into an Ashes win. In modern times it has been England who have had to agonise over injuries and form issues, but this time it is the hosts who have all the major issues.
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