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Aussie PM demands Ashes urn

Canberra: Australian Prime Minister John Howard made a public appeal on Wednesday for England to hand the Ashes urn over to Australia, saying it may give the battered English team an incentive to win the trophy back.

In a statement splashed across the front page of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, Howard said the time had come for England to surrender the Ashes trophy.

His comments came after the victory over England on Sunday in the third Test of the five-match series gave Australia a run of eight successive Ashes series wins.

“Given our sustained supremacy, it is not unreasonable to argue the urn should be on display in Australia,” said Howard, who has previously described himself as a “self-confessed cricket tragic”.

“I ask our English friends to look at it this way: If the urn were to come to Australia, then they would have a much greater incentive to win it back,” he said.

The Ashes were introduced 120 years ago when Australia won a series in England for the first time.

Following the decisive defeat at The Oval, The Sporting Times published a now famous mock obituary for English cricket.

Although there is some argument about the exact nature of the Ashes, the most generally accepted story is that months later a group of Melbourne ladies burnt a set of bails and presented their ashes to a touring English team, who took them home where they have remained ever since.

Howard said the Ashes urn was the most treasured sporting trophy in the eyes of most Australians, who take their cricket seriously.

The Ashes are currently housed at the Marylebone Cricket Club at Lord’s in London.

Earlier this year English and Australian officials held discussions about sending the urn to Australia for display but after advice from conservation experts, English officials decided the trophy was too delicate to survive the journey.

The Australian Cricket Board has a replica of the trophy, presented in 1948 after the 4-0 series victory by Don Bradman’s “Invincibles”.

Howard said it would be a real gesture on the part of the English cricket authorities for the urn to come to Australia, and a welcome piece of symbolism that would not be lost on the cricketing world.

“While the location of the Ashes trophy is certainly not going to strain diplomatic relations between Australia and the United Kingdom, I strongly support the Australian Cricket Board’s efforts to allow the nation’s cricket fans to view the hallowed trophy,” he said.

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