The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ashes urn too fragile to go Down Under

Adelaide: A plan to bring the Ashes trophy to Australia has been shelved at the last minute because of renewed fears the tiny urn is too fragile to be moved from London.

But the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which owns and keeps the trophy, says the Ashes can be taken to Australia in the future once they have been restored.

The Australian Cricket Board (ACB) and the MCC said in a joint statement on Wednesday that they were planning to display the trophy in Melbourne and Sydney during the current Ashes series.

But the proposal was scuppered at the last minute when independent conservation experts discovered a new break in the urn.

“Expert advice has concluded that there is a real risk of breakage if the urn, in its current condition, is subject to unnecessary movement and to changes in humidity and pressure,” the statement said.

“Its current fragility has been caused, in particular, by the degeneration of some adhesive that was used to repair the urn at least 75 years ago. This adhesive, in the crucial area between the urn’s stem and foot, needs to be removed before it can degenerate any further.”

ACB chief executive officer James Sutherland told a news conference he was disappointed the Ashes would not be coming to Australia this (southern hemisphere) summer but welcomed the MCC’s announcement that they would release them in the future, possibly for the next series in four years time.

He added that the ACB did not dispute the ownership of the Ashes with the MCC but hoped they would be brought to Australia in the near future.

“There’s certainly no claims at our end to ownership of the Ashes just because we happen to be the holders of the trophy,” Sutherland said.

“We understand the history of the Ashes and while the Ashes themselves have some Australian origin the facts of the matter are a former England captain bequeathed the Ashes to the Marylebone Cricket Club and the MCC are in our view the rightful owner of the Ashes.”

The MCC in 1998 donated a glass urn which is now presented to the winning captain of each series and the club’s chief executive Roger Knight said they were happy to let the original Ashes travel to Australia once they had been restored.

“We had hoped to display the Ashes urn in Australia this (northern hemisphere) winter. We are deeply disappointed that these plans have had to be put on hold,” he said in the statement.

“However, we simply could not ignore the emphatic and authoritative advice that we received. Our absolute priority is to ensure that the urn receives expert attention from leading conservation specialists as a matter of urgency.”

The concept of the Ashes began in 1882 when a London newspaper published a mock obituary on the death of English cricket after they were beaten by the Australians.

When England won in Australia in 1882-83, their captain Ivo Bligh was presented with an urn containing the Ashes of a burnt bail from one of the Tests, which the team took back to London.

Although the two countries have been competing for the right to “hold” the Ashes ever since, the 10-centimetre urn has remained in a glass case at the MCC Museum at Lord’s.

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