So far, 2019 has proven to be an exciting year in the world of international sports.
The U.S. women’s national team dominated the FIFA Women’s World Cup to win its fourth title, while the U.S. men’s national team eked out a runner-up finish in the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament. Fifteen-year-old American Cori “Coco” Goff became the youngest competitor to win a main draw singles match at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati in 1991, showing a great deal of perseverance and endurance and pushing all the way to the round of 16 before bowing out to eventual champion Simona Halep from Romania.
There are plenty of upcoming international competitions that show a great deal of exciting promise. In just a couple of weeks, the FIBA Basketball World Cup will tip off in China, with the U.S. looking to three-peat as world champions. Meanwhile, the Little League World Series will bring 16 of the best young baseball teams from around the world to Williamsport, Pennsylvania for a tournament that never fails to deliver excitement.
However, one of the most fascinating and enjoyable international competitions of the late summer kicks off this week. England and Australia will be meeting on five different cricket ovals across England over the next month in a series of five test cricket matches, known as The Ashes.
First played in 1882, The Ashes began when Australia sent a team to England for a test match and managed to hang on for a win. Following the English loss, the English newspaper The Sporting Times declared English cricket was dead, would be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. Although this nickname has not always been used for the series between the two countries (primarily early on), it has become virtually impossible to separate the nickname from the series. The nickname has been further solidified through the trophy given to the winning side at the end of the series. A small urn standing approximately six inches tall, it is believed that the ashes of a burned cricket ball are contained within, meaning that the two countries could very well be playing for a literal container of ashes.
Unlike the cricket seen at the Cricket World Cup earlier this summer (which was a thrilling tournament from start to finish), where teams had a certain amount of overs (one over consists of six bowls, a bowl being equivalent to a pitch in baseball) to score as many runs as possible, The Ashes series are test matches, which have no limit on the number of overs bowled to each team. With this in mind, test cricket is not as fast-paced as other forms of the sport. Although it may be a slower form of cricket, test cricket is no less exciting than its more upbeat versions. The strategies are different with the emphasis on scoring boundaries (getting the ball to the edge of the playing field, which scores four or six points, depending on how the ball reaches the boundary) not being as strong as in one-day international matches.
The series between England and Australia has proven to be a fairly even matchup, with Australia holding the edge, 33-32 with five series ties. Both sides come in with a strong corps of players, many of whom had good outings in a 2017 series dominated by Australia, while England looks to take back The Ashes on its home turf.
So, if you’ve ever been curious about cricket and want to see what is arguably the biggest test series in the world, check out The Ashes. It’s well worth the watch.
Donald Campbell is a former staff writer with The Outlook.