How cricketing rivalry and love led to the creation of the Ashes

How cricketing rivalry and love led to the creation of the Ashes
England vs Australia, semi-finals, ICC World Cup 2019. (AP)
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Updated 07 October 2021

How cricketing rivalry and love led to the creation of the Ashes

How cricketing rivalry and love led to the creation of the Ashes
  • Arguably the game’s most famous series has several story origins which have only added to its legend

Cricketing rivalry between England and Australia is legendary. Spice was added to this when Australia defeated England for the first time in England on Aug. 29, 1882. Shock and disaster were the feelings amongst the English. The Sporting Life newspaper famously published a satirical death notice of English cricket that carried a postscript of “N.B. The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”

At first sight, it seems curious that English cricket should be defined as a body. The obituary was written by Reginald Shirley Brooks, whose father was a campaigner for the right to human cremation, legalization of which was being resisted by the government of the time. Brooks seized upon an opportunity to subtly promote the campaign. Little did he know the extent to which his subtlety would come to permeate cricket between the two countries.

A further feature of the match was that it was the only one between an England team and the visiting Australians, who played 38 matches mainly against county teams on their four-month long tour of England and Scotland. If the match had not taken place or had England won, the Ashes would not have become part of cricket folklore.

By this time, touring by teams between the two countries had become established practice and, before the 1882 match, an England party had already been primed to travel to Australia in 1882-83 to play three Test matches. Its captain was Ivo Bligh and he promised to “recover those Ashes,” something that was picked up by the Australian press.

It was also picked up by a group of ladies in Melbourne, who, at some point during the tour, presented Bligh with a small, 10.5 centimeter, terracotta urn containing ashes. There is myth and uncertainty surrounding not only the timing of the presentation but also the exact material that was used to create those ashes.

On the long and accident-prone boat journey to Australia undertaken by the English party and 900 other passengers, Bligh had met William Clarke, a preeminent figure in Victoria and president of the Melbourne Cricket Club.

Shortly after arriving in Melbourne, Bligh visited the Clarke mansion for the first and certainly not the last time, since he became attracted to a lady, Florence Morphy, governess and piano tutor to Clarke’s daughters. Two test matches were played at Melbourne in early and mid-January, billed as the Honourable Ivo Bligh’s team vs Mr. Murdoch’s XI, each side winning once.

The third and deciding match ending on Jan. 30, 1883, was won by England and the recovery of the Ashes was claimed. The following day, the Melbourne Punch published a six-verse song lyric in which the fourth verse refers to an urn and Ivo returning with it.

One version of the myth of the urn, according to Bligh’s wife, has it that Lady Clarke found an urn, possibly a perfume bottle, burnt an ash wood cricket bail, put its ashes into the urn, wrapped it into a red velvet bag and presented it to Bligh. Some say that the presentation occurred after the third Test match, but more recent research suggests that the presentation of an urn took place at the Clarke mansion after a private cricket match played over Christmas 1882, when some of the English team were guests.

Another version clouds the issue further. In the middle of February 1883, an additional fourth Test match took place. It was won by Australia but was not classed to be part of the Ashes series of 1882-83. In an interview in 1921, Bligh, by then Lord Darnley, said that the urn was presented to him by some ladies of Melbourne after the final defeat of his team. It is quite possible that the urn was presented twice but in different formats.

What did happen is that Bligh set sail for England only on May 5. In the intervening weeks, it is rumored that he became engaged to Florence, having proposed to her on New Year’s Eve during the first Test match. Ultimately, after gaining permission from his father, they married on Feb. 9, 1884, in Melbourne. A combination of this and ill-health ended his first-class cricket career.

Despite the use of the term Ashes in 1882 and 1883, its adoption for subsequent series was sporadic. This may be partly explained by the lack of a tangible trophy. In 1926, the year before he died, Bligh displayed the urn, as presented to him by the ladies of Melbourne, at an exhibition in London. Upon his death, Florence presented the urn to the Marylebone Cricket Club in London, where it has rested ever since, apart from three exhibition forays to Australia.

It is remarkable that this small, fragile urn, bearing the fourth verse of the Melbourne Punch’s song lyric, became the physical embodiment of match-series between England and Australia, giving rise to an evocative and lasting name. Yet, mystery still shrouds the urn — not only the question of when it was presented to Bligh, but also as to its original contents.

Skeptics ask how could Lady Clarke have had access to match bails after the third Test in Sydney and had time to burn them, even if that was when the urn was presented? A face veil would have been to hand and easier to burn quickly. Romantics prefer to believe that the veil belonged to Florence and that the ashes within the urn were a symbol of Bligh’s successful ventures in both love and cricket, a private token that only became public after his death.

Since that time, there have been many occasions when no love has been lost between England and Australia on or off the pitch. A decision on the upcoming series is expected any day now, once the two sides conclude negotiations over COVID-19-related touring conditions for the English party.

England’s tougher stance is designed to ensure that its leading players can take part, thus “befitting a series of this significance.” A small urn and a love affair continue to cast their spell.

Newcastle fans urge new owners to axe Steve Bruce

Newcastle fans urge new owners to axe Steve Bruce
Updated 17 October 2021

Newcastle fans urge new owners to axe Steve Bruce

Newcastle fans urge new owners to axe Steve Bruce
  • Long-suffering manager refuses to be drawn on whether talks on his future are imminent

NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce has refused to be drawn on whether he will have more crunch talks with the Magpies’ new owners this week.

Almost two weeks into the reign of the Saudi-led consortium, Bruce continues to hang on to his job, despite vociferous calls from fans for him to be sacked.

And following the Magpies 3-2 home loss to Tottenham Hotspur, watched from the directors’ box by non-executive chairman Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan, Bruce stonewalled any questions on his future.

When asked whether fresh talks with the owners were planned, he said: “I’ve got to wait, until they see fit. You need to ask somebody else that one.

“Look, the owners have been very respectful in the last week to 10 days. It is going to take time and patience, of course. But to have the supporters back on side is a positive.”

Bruce is understood to be hanging by a thread as the club’s manager following a run of nine games without a win in 2021/22, eight of those in the Premier League.

Speculation about his future has grown since the club was purchased by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), RB Media & Sports and PCP Capital Partners.

Bruce met with NUFC board member Amanda Staveley and her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi, of PCP, on Monday last week - but has been backed to continue in the role, for now, at least.

On Friday, Staveley was quoted in a club statement discussing Bruce’s future.

The statement read: “We have had an extremely busy week reviewing the business and getting to know people and it is imperative that we continue to be patient and considered in our approach. Change does not always happen overnight, it demands time and that we follow a carefully considered plan and strategy.

“We met Steve and the players on Monday and have given them the time and space this week to focus on preparing for what is a very important game on Sunday.

“Steve has been very professional in our dealings with him and he and his coaching team will take the team on Sunday. If we make any changes going forward, Steve will be the first to know but, in the meantime, we wish him the best of luck in his 1,000th match as a manager and will be joining you in getting right behind the team.”

Meanwhile, Bruce admits he was disappointed his side did not build on their positive early start against Spurs.

Following Callum Wilson’s goal, United conceded three first-half goals, which ultimately saw them condemned to yet another top flight loss, despite Eric Dier’s late own goal.

“It is pretty obvious we haven’t defended well after a great start. Unfortunately we have done too much of that this season for my liking,” said Bruce. “With Tottenham’s first attack they score, their second it is two.

“We are trying to be a bit more attacking but defensively, we just haven't defended well enough.”

When asked whether he thinks his 19th-placed side are in a relegation battle, he said: “Have we not been in that for the last five or six years? I would think so.

“We have finished 12th and 13th - I found that very respectable, for where we are at this moment. I am convinced we would win a relegation battle. But when you are in the bottom half, people will say you’re in a relegation battle, yes.”


Tottenham spoil party after Newcastle welcomes new owners

Tottenham spoil party after Newcastle welcomes new owners
Updated 18 October 2021

Tottenham spoil party after Newcastle welcomes new owners

Tottenham spoil party after Newcastle welcomes new owners
  • While hope has returned to Tyneside, the situation on the pitch remains the same
  • Callum Wilson headed Newcastle in front 107 seconds into the match before hosts collapsed to lose 3-2 to Tottenham

NEWCASTLE: So much has changed at Newcastle United in the last 10 days, but much remains the same.

While hope has returned to Tyneside — heart strings pulled, fires rekindled, new owners, new vision and renewed passion — the situation on the pitch remains the same.

A first-half three goal show from Tanguy Ndombele, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min was enough to cancel out a Callum Wilson opener and deflate the Magpies’ takeover party. A late Eric Dier own goal reduced the arrears, but United’s fate was sealed as they continued their poor start to the season — they are now nine games without a win in 2021/22, have conceded the most goals in the Premier League and sit second bottom of the table.

Injuries have hamstrung United in the opening months of the campaign, and at least Steve Bruce, handed an unexpected reprieve to manage his 1,000th game as a professional coach, could boost his beleaguered side with the return of frontman Wilson and skipper Jamaal Lascelles.

Spurs are light-years ahead of United in terms of quality, and it would take a monumental effort from the crowd to lift Newcastle from their early season malaise.

But with positivity flooding down from the terraces at a packed St James’ Park, the Magpies did take the lead — much to the delight of the new owners in the directors box.

As Javier Manquillo clipped on to the head of Wilson, who netted his third in four top flight games this season, PCP Capital Partners’ Mehrdad Ghodoussi straddled a row seats high in the Milburn Stand to embrace wife Amanda Staveley and PIF’s Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the new non-executive chairman of the club.

The action on the pitch was all too familiar for Newcastle's long-suffering fans. (AP)

It was a sight so many had waited so long for, after two years of legal deal wrangling and nearly 15 years of turmoil under previous owner Mike Ashley. It was not to last, however.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s Spurs were in no mood, and were soon level as Ndombele, free in acres of space on the edge of the Gallowgate box, guided past Karl Darlow in the United goal, leaving him rooted to the spot.

If the first could not pop the atmosphere, the second did.

A searching ball by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg saw Kane break the offside trap — after a very close VAR check — and guide over the advancing Darlow.

Spirit unwavered, Newcastle looked for a leveller, and Allan Saint-Maximin came within a whisker of making it 2-2. Joelinton’s through ball set goalscorer Wilson free, but this time, looking to turn provider, he passed inches beyond the frenchman’s reach.

In truth, this was as good as it got for United as Spurs began to open up gaps across their backline.

A Son corner picked out Lucas Moura, who beat Lascelles in the air and nodded off the crossbar.

It was another warning Bruce’s men did not heed, and soon, they paid for it as Kane, previously without a goal or assist for his club this season, laid the ball on a plate from right to left, leaving partner-in-crime Son with the easiest of finishes.

A flowing encounter had a lengthy juncture just before half-time when a medical emergency in the East Stand saw a Newcastle fan stretchered out of the ground, stabilized by medical staff including club doctor Paul Catterson.

But for the speedy work of Spurs’ Dier and Sergio Reguilon, who called for Andre Marriner to halt proceedings and get a defibrillator across to treat the supporter in need, the outcome may have been much worse.

The second half, much like the end of the first, became formulaic, with waves of Spurs attacks rarely punctuated with United possession.

Newcastle's Callum Wilson, centre and Jamaal Lascelles react to their defeat at St. James' park. (AP)

Ndombele, buoyed from his goal, whipped one over Darlow’s upright as the North London club looked to put the final nail in United’s coffin.

The hosts, down to 10 men when substitute Jonjo Shelvey picked up a second booking, rarely looked like turning things around, as their possession statistics dropped to 15 percent for long periods of the final stages.

If new owners did not know the scale of the task facing them, they no doubt do now. With the eyes of the world on them, United produced a joyous atmosphere off the pitch, but little spark on it.

The first major decision of the new regime, deciding Bruce’s future, hangs like a cloud over the club — and time must be running out for the 60-year-old.

Newcastle fans have embraced the Saudi flag since the takeover. (AN_Photo)

Fans made their feelings clear. “We want Brucey out” chants became more prevalent as theme slipped away. After Shelvey’s red, they became raucous.

A huge banner unfurled by fan group Wor Flags pre-kick-off read: “‘Cause this is a mighty town, built upon a solid ground — and everything they’ve tried so hard to kill, we will rebuild.”

These words, uttered by old-time Geordie actor and crooner Jimmy Nail in the famous local song “Big River,” ring truer now than they did pre-game.

Newcastle is a mighty town, built on solid ground — a supporter base the envy of the footballing world. However, a rebuild is what is needed — the damage may prove tough to shake, short-term.

Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai

Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai
Updated 17 October 2021

Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai

Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai
  • A new TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament will culminate with final on the evening of the main event at the Coca-Cola Arena on Oct. 22

Indian Davis Cup representative Ramkumar Ramanathan is the latest player to join the Tie Break Tens Dubai Presented by Zone, joining Taylor Fritz, Dustin Brown, Dan Evans and Gaël Monfils at the tournament being held on Oct. 22 at City Walk’s Coca-Cola Arena.

Ramkumar is the first Indian player to reach an ATP world tour singles final since Somdev Devvarman in 2011. He plays both singles and doubles games and is well known for his attacking serve, which will come in handy in the Tie Break Tens short-form of the sport.

“Ramkumar is a great addition to the inaugural Dubai TB10s line-up, and is sure to be a particularly big attraction for the UAE’s passionate Indian sports fans. He has a very aggressive style on the serve and second shot, so he is another player that promises to do well with the tie breaker format. Whoever he is pitted against, one thing is for sure: It’ll be quick and dramatic,” said Jimmy Poon, the tournament director.

As the build-up to the Middle East’s first ever TB10 tennis tournament continues, the organizers have also announced the launch of the inaugural TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament. This new competition will culminate in some of the UAE’s best young players battling it out in the finals ahead of the main tournament itself on the evening of Oct. 22 at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena.

Qualifying rounds are taking place each Friday, leading up to the main event at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai’s City Walk. The TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament will further support young Emirati talent in the sport, with the finals for the under-18 competitors set to take place in front of the international stars and a packed arena on the night of the main event.

The TB10s format is the only officially recognised short form of tennis. It is already proving popular among the participating youngsters, and up to 16 players of ages ranging from 12 to 18 are competing in each of the Friday tournaments, drawn from tennis academies and schools across Dubai. The finals will be played between the players who accrue the most points across the three weeks.

As well as the Friday competitions, a tennis clinic will be held the day before the main TB10s evening for competition winners from schools in Dubai.

Harsh lesson for Al-Wahda as five-star Al-Nassr cruise to AFC Champions League semi-final

Harsh lesson for Al-Wahda as five-star Al-Nassr cruise to AFC Champions League semi-final
Updated 17 October 2021

Harsh lesson for Al-Wahda as five-star Al-Nassr cruise to AFC Champions League semi-final

Harsh lesson for Al-Wahda as five-star Al-Nassr cruise to AFC Champions League semi-final
  • A dream debut for new coach Pedro Emanuel means the Saudi club face Al-Hilal in a high stakes Riyadh Derby on Tuesday

It was the best of debuts for coach Pedro Emanuel and the vast majority of the 20,000 fans who cheering for Al-Nassr in Mrsool Park, in Riyadh. However, it was a sad ending for the UAE legend Ismail Matar despite his late goal for Al-Wahda.

On Saturday, Riyadh wore its brightest yellow dress as the 2021 AFC Champions League produced a memorable night for the home side. Jaloliddin Masharipov, Abderazzak Hamdallah and Anderson Talisca were at their scintillating best, leaving Al-Wahda boss Henk ten Cate in no doubt over what had happened as he concluded his post-match press conference with a straightforward message, “They were better than us and that’s a fact.”

A mesmerizing show of the local football culture was produced by the crowd and, while the avalanche of streamers thrown on the bench postponed kick-off by nearly 10 minutes, the Al-Nassr faithful left their new boss gushing.

“In some moments, I just sat on the bench and enjoyed the environment between the fans and the team. This is why I’m a coach, this is why I enjoy football,” said Emanuel.

Seven minutes was all it took for Al-Nassr to get off the mark as a string of quick passes in the attacking third included an exquisite backheel pass from Talisca for Masharipov, who set up Hamdallah to do what he does best and beat goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Shamsi from inside the box for his 16th continental goal for the club.

Al-Wahda did their best but it was not enough. Joao Pedro threatened from distance, Omar Kharbin came close and UAE national team’s rising starlet Abdullah Hamad worked tirelessly throughout.

“It was a real lesson for us. The difference was in the chances, they had six chances and they scored five, we had five chances and we scored only one,” said Ten Cate.

In the second half. Al-Nassr were 3-0 up 10 minutes after the restart as Masharipov curled into the bottom corner from outside the box and Abdulfattah Assiri raced into the six-yards-box to tap in Hamdallah’s cross after the Moroccan had danced around the Emirati defence down the left.

A ruthless finisher at his best, Hamdallah seemed to have discovered a new side to his game under Emanuel, producing another fine assist with a through ball to send Masharipov clear on goal and the Uzbek international buried in the ball, and with it all the pain from the red card he got at the same stage of the competition last year as his former side Pakhtakor crashed out against Persepolis.

Fresh off the bench and with a two-goal man-of-the-match display against China under his belt, youngster Sami Al-Najei capped off a fine move. Talisca fed a diagonal ball to substitute Abdulrahman Al-Obaid, who headed it across goal for Al-Najei to score.

Emanuel, returning to the kingdom for a second spell after leading Al-Taawoun to King’s Cup glory two years earlier, heaped praise on his team.

“I am very happy with the quality, not only of the foreigners, but also the local players as we saw with the national team, and we saw here today. This quality is why I wanted to come back to this country and that is also why I am happy to be back,” said Emanuel.

The game was all settled by the time 38-year-old Matar leapt to head home Mahmoud Khamis’ cross from the left to make it 5-1 seconds before the final whistle, but this was an important moment. The Al-Wahda playmaker, the best player in the 2001 FIFA Youth Championship and one of the finest the UAE has produced, was emotional as he received a standing ovation from the home crowd after his goal. That strike could prove to be his last AFC Champions League memory in a long career. Ten Cate made sure he mentioned his club captain’s legacy.

“He is a big player and he deserved this greeting, he is getting older and there comes a moment when he has to stop because he is almost 40,” said the Dutchman.

“But if you see what he gives to this team, he deserves this standing ovation, and I was happy for him to score. Maybe it was his last Champions League game because next year we are not here, so this was a nice send off for him from the Saudi fans.”

All eyes will be on Mrsool Park on Tuesday as Riyadh rivals Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr battle it out on the continental stage for the first time, with a place in the final up for grabs. For Al-Wahda, the hard work begins now as they head home thinking of ways to turn around a run of five consecutive draws in the UAE Pro League.


Diriyah Gate Development Authority to become Official Cultural Destination Partner of Aramco Team Series

Diriyah Gate Development Authority to become Official Cultural Destination Partner of Aramco Team Series
Updated 17 October 2021

Diriyah Gate Development Authority to become Official Cultural Destination Partner of Aramco Team Series

Diriyah Gate Development Authority to become Official Cultural Destination Partner of Aramco Team Series
  • Year-long agreement could open door for new team series for female golfers to be held in Diriyah

NEW YORK: Diriyah Gate Development Authority and the Aramco Team Series have signed a year-long agreement that makes DGDA the Official Cultural Destination Partner of the new golf team series for female players.

The partnership could open the door for hosting the Aramco Team Series in Diriyah in the future. By hosting a tournament on-site, DGDA will be able to showcase its unique historical and cultural values to a new worldwide audience.

“Diriyah is already well on its way to becoming a global cultural icon, and following this agreement with the Aramco Team Series we look forward to becoming one of the world’s greatest gathering places for golf,” Jerry Inzerillo, group CEO, DGDA said. “Diriyah, Riyadh’s new global cultural and lifestyle destination, has already established itself as a home of world-class sporting events and this agreement will continue that tradition.

“With Saudi Arabia swiftly establishing itself as one of the world’s most dynamic golf markets, we are incredibly excited about our partnership with the Aramco Team Series, which not only gives prominence to women’s golf but also fits into our mission to make Diriyah a global icon and a must-visit destination.”

DGDA previously worked with Golf Saudi, the owner of the Aramco Team Series, in 2019 when both parties signed a landmark deal with the Greg Norman Golf Course Design Co. A 27-hole golf course is due to be built, as part of the exclusive new Wadi Safar residential district in Diriyah, developed by DGDA. As part of the agreement, Golf Saudi has been providing DGDA with technical and management services as an expert in the field with the two entities having formed a joint working team, comprised of specialists from both sides, to activate areas of collaboration as envisioned in the original agreement.

Commenting on the partnership, Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi and deputy chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation, said: “I am delighted to once again be working with Jerry and his team at DGDA. This deal underscores our joint desire to ensure Saudi Arabia becomes a destination of choice for international travelers, as we look to attract new audiences through the medium of golf. We both know that sporting events can be a vehicle to bring both Diriyah and Kingdom to the world and this agreement will ensure that Saudi Arabia remains on the sporting map in the years ahead.”