The Australian-British cricket rivalry, known as the Ashes, goes back over a hundred years to the first time Britain lost a cricket match to Australia.
As legend tells it, the British team burned the stumps, the vertical posts on the wicket, of that first loss into ashes and sent them to Australia. Since then, the two countries have met every two years on the cricket pitch to compete for the ashes.
This year the Aussies and Brits continued their rivalry in Afghanistan.
On Dec. 26, Boxing Day, teams from the British and Australian contingents serving on Kandahar Air Field gathered together and hosted their own mini-Ashes match.
“It’s sort of like a re-enactment of the real Ashes,” said Australian Army Warrant Officer 2 Dennis Bills, team captain and Force Support Unit 4 company sergeant major. “It’s a tradition really. Plus, it makes you forget where you are for a while. For a couple of hours we’re just a bunch of guys playing cricket.”
Bills said every month the two teams play for the KAFWAY Trophy, a wooden Afghanistan version of the Ashes Trophy. The Boxing Day match was especially symbolic because it occurred at the same time as the real Ashes.
The match on KAF was a limited 20-20 overs match, an abbreviated game of cricket, and resulted in a 51-50 win for the Aussies.
An international crowd cheered on the athletes as the warm sun beat down from overhead. Flags waved, horns blew and all shared in camaraderie.
“That’s what we call a flogging,” Bills said in jest to the British team captain, Royal Air Force Flying Officer Owen Cheverton.
“Yes, but who’s winning in the real Ashes?” replied the 14th Squadron intelligence officer, poking fun at the fact that Britain was in the lead.
The event ended with a barbeque. The Brits joined the Aussies at their compound, ate some food and shared stories from Christmas the day before.
“There’s nothing like a good old fashioned barbie to end the day,” said Bills.
Cheverton said the barbeque afterwards goes to show that the rivalry is all in good spirit.
“I think this represents how wherever you are in the world, sports can bring people together,” said Cheverton. “It’s definitely bizarre to play out here. Not many games back home are interrupted by dust storms. It’s surreal, but cricket is still cricket wherever you play it.”