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Cricket: An Indian summer and an Australian winter

Ah, the distant thwack of leather on willow, the soothing and therapeutic soundtrack of cricket synonymous with the archetypal English summer.

Cricket, perhaps more than anything else across this fair isle, is designed to bewilder the beginner or the newcomer – this most summer of sporting pastimes is, after all, locked and loaded with nuances and terminology that simply make no sense to the outsider.

You can have ducks (when a batsman is dismissed without scoring), silly mid-off (a fielding position), maidens (no runs scored off an over), the googly (a spin bowler’s go-to delivery) and indeed, the very concept that a cricket match may be played over five days but yet still end without a winner. To the cricket lover, terms synonymous with the oddities in the game where blokes clad in knee pads, mouth guards and helmets aim to smash a leather-covered cricket ball as far as possible towards spectators wearing T-shirts and shorts.

4 cricket players in white on a cricket green

Although normally a team sport – cumulative rather than collaborative – cricket is also, an individual battle – each delivery is an isolated event, a classic one-on-one head to head, batsman vs bowler, in the knowledge that whoever comes out on top in the battle between cricket bat and ball can alter the outcome of a match almost single-handedly.

England won the last Cricket World Cup in 2019 on a never-to-be-forgotten July day at Lord’s, pipping the Black Caps of New Zealand to glory in probably the greatest match of One Day cricket ever played. It capped a remarkable renaissance for a team of journeymen led by captain Eoin Morgan (ironically, an Irishman) and ended the England men’s team elusive wait for a global 50-over (One Day) title, securing a place in the country’s sporting folklore in the process.

The Ashes

Having climbed the final frontier of the global game, attentions now turn to the Ashes – a historic, compelling battle with the greatest honour of all tantalisingly up for grabs. The Cricket World Cup games are played over 50 overs but the Ashes sees England take on arch-rivals Australia in a five-match series in Test cricket – so-called because the five day contests, the longest form of the game, are long, gruelling and the ultimate ‘test’ of a player’s mental and physical fitness and ability. Whichever side wins the most matches across the five contests takes home the trophy with the previous winners retaining the prize in the event of a drawn series.

Being the oldest duel in the sport, it’s yet another cricketing quirk; the Ashes urn is perhaps the most insignificant looking trophy of all, standing only 10.5cm high and containing the ‘ashes’ of burnt cricket bails – two small pieces of wood, just over eleven centimetres long, sitting atop the wicket to form the stumps.

The story of the Ashes began way back when England were beaten at home, at the Oval, for the first time by Australia. To add insult to injury, this was the world’s first official cricket match, 139 years ago. The series defeat shocked the sporting world at the time and prompted the English press to print a joke story on the ‘death of English cricket’ – with the ‘body sent to Australia’, and so the concept of the Ashes and its tiny trophy was born.

Curiously, it never leaves England with the actual urn permanently housed at Lord’s and a replica on offer each time England and the Aussies do battle every two years – held alternately in each country. Australia has the overall lead in the contest first played in 1882, with 33 wins to England’s 32 and six drawn series, including the last; two years ago. This proved enough for England to retain the urn as Joe Root’s side head Down Under at the end of 2021.

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Here at All English Things, we have everything you need to channel the spirit of cricket this summer as England face India before heading Down Under to renew their age-old rivalry with the Australians.

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