MCC adamant on returning Ashes urn to England

Published: Wednesday, January 3, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Ian Botham and Allan Border joined British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson in calling for the Ashes urn to remain in Australia but English officials have played a straight bat to their appeal.

The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) said the little brown pot which symbolises 124 years of Test cricket between the sport's oldest rivals would return to London even though Australia had won back the title it surrendered in 2005.

"The urn was never intended to be the trophy for the cricket series, and has never changed hands between the two countries," the MCC said in a statement on Wednesday.

The tiny Ashes urn has been on display in Australia, who lead the current five-Test series 4-0, since last month after the MCC agreed to send it from its home at Lord's for an exhibition tour.

"The urn will return to Lord's after the exhibition tour finishes at the end of January," the MCC said.

Branson, whose Virgin airlines flew the urn to and around Australia, said he would feel uncomfortable if the trophy went back to England on one of his aircraft.

Australia have won more series than England since they started playing more than a century ago and Australian Cricket officials have long argued that the holder should keep the urn.

The MCC has always refused, saying it was too fragile to be moved and was a private gift to former England captain Ivo Bligh

Former England captain Botham and his Australian counterpart Border beg to differ.

"If you're playing for the Ashes, the winners should hold the Ashes," Botham said.

Border said: "It's all very well to have the symbolic handing over of the Ashes, and a little Ashes trophy replica, but there's nothing quite the same as the real McCoy".

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a self-confessed cricket "tragic", was quick to join the fray.

"I would very strongly support them coming to Australia," Howard told local television.

"Despite all the tradition associated with the urn being where it normally is in England, I do think it should follow the winner," he said.

The phrase "Ashes" was coined after England lost to Australia for the first time on home soil in August 1882.

The Sporting Times carried a mock obituary to English cricket which concluded: "The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia".

The Ashes urn was presented to Bligh, who captained the next English team to tour Australia, by a group of Melbourne women who burned one of the bails used in the third Test and put the remains in the pot.

The urn was given to the MCC by Bligh's wife, an Australian, in 1927.


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