Tiny urn at the heart of cricket's great rivalry

Fri Jul 10, 2009 1:43pm EDT
 
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By Catherine Millar

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A tiny terracotta urn at the heart of a 127 year-old rivalry between England and Australia is the star of an exhibition at the home of cricket.

Not even the guardians of the Ashes at the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) museum are exactly certain what is in the urn given to English cricket captain Ivo Bligh by his future wife while on a playing tour of Australia in 1883.

What they are sure about is that the brown-colored urn, slightly bigger than an egg cup, is not the trophy that England are attempting to win back from Australia this year in the test series that is held every two years.

Museum manager Antony Amos said that contrary to popular misperception the Ashes urn is not a trophy, but a piece of cricket history donated to the MCC by Bligh's widow.

"People think it's a trophy, but it's not," Amos told Reuters. "It's just a symbol."

The museum also holds the much bigger urn-shaped Waterford Crystal trophy, which was commissioned by the MCC as the official Ashes trophy after discussions with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia.

That trophy was first presented to Mark Taylor after his Australian side emerged triumphant in the 1998-99 Test series against England. The 2009 Ashes series began this week in Cardiff, Wales. Lord's -- the home ground of the MCC -- will host the second test in this year's five-match series.

While the Ashes urn is the pride of the MCC museum, it also shares its home with other hallowed cricket treasures that the MCC has been collecting since 1864.   Continued...

 
<p>Australia's captain Ricky Ponting (L) with an Ashes urn replica and England's captain Andrew Strauss with the npower trophy pose before the first Ashes Test at Cardiff, Wales July 7, 2009. REUTERS/Philip Brown</p>