Did you know the Women’s Ashes trophy dates back 170 years further than the Men’s Ashes trophy?
The story of the newspaper obituary signifying the death of English cricket and the gifted urn to England captain Ivo Bligh has become entrenched in cricketing folklore as the beginning of cricket’s fiercest rivalry, but the origin of the Women’s Ashes comes with its own tale.
In 1998, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) became the second governing body, after New Zealand, to align both its men’s and women’s cricket teams.
To honour the ground-breaking alignment 54 years after the two sides first played a Test series, the ECB and the Australian Cricket Board, now Cricket Australia, began a tradition that has since been celebrated for the last 17 years: the Women’s Ashes.
In a ceremony at the Harris Garden inside Lord’s, a bat signed by the two competing teams, a copy of the Women’s Cricket Association (WCA) constitution and the rules book were burnt, with the Ashes of the items sealed in a 300-year-old yew tree trophy.
(L-R) Belinda Clark, Karen Smithies, Norma Izard and Roger Knight at the ceremony in 1998 // Cricket Australia
The leaders of the ceremony were England captain Karen Smithies, outgoing WCA president Norma Izard, MCC Secretary Roger Knight and Australia captain Belinda Clark.
“Things were changing, we were getting access to more resources, this was a part of history so (we thought) let’s make something that’s a mark in time … doing it at Lord’s was very appropriate for history,” Clark told cricket.com.au.
“As a player, you get involved in things like that at the time, when you look back you realise how monumental and historic they are.”
A veteran of 18 Tests, Clark scored one of her two centuries on the tour, crafting her way to 136 off in a partnership of 174 with Karen Rolton (176), still the fifth-highest second-wicket partnership in Women’s Test history.
Edwards with the new trophy in 2013 // Getty Images
Also at the ceremony was an 18-year-old Charlotte Edwards, current captain of the England Women’s side, who has fond memories of the occasion.
Edwards was a central figure of the 1998 Ashes side, unstoppable in hitting 319 runs at a remarkable 63.8 as her rise to international stardom began.
“To be part of a series like that, it was a great function and quite a moment,” Edwards told cricket.com.au.
“To play for that (trophy) was fantastic but also to be stood there with the greats of Women’s cricket was a fantastic moment.”
Since the trophy was introduced, Edwards has played 21 Tests, 168 One Day Internationals and 84 Twenty20 Internationals, taking over the captaincy in 2006.
“At the time, you don’t really understand but looking back, it was a pretty big moment for the women’s game.”
The trophy design was redeveloped in 2013 with the original trophy mounted in the centre of a larger frame.
The 2015 Women’s Ashes begins on July 21 in Taunton with the first of three One Day Internationals.