Sir Tim Rice, the president of Marylebone Cricket Club, has confirmed that the Ashes urn will be taken to Australia next winter, but only temporarily.
England have not won an Ashes series for 15 years and there have been calls for the urn, which dates from 1883, to be taken back Down Under from its residence at Lord's.
It had been scheduled to be transported to Australia this winter to mark the centenary of the first Ashes series, but has not yet made the journey because experts argued that it was too fragile to be transported safely.
But intricate repair work will be carried out on the artefact over the next few months, with a view to moving it during the 2003-2004 Australian season, where it is likely to be displayed in Melbourne and Sydney before being returned to England.
"Speaking for MCC, we are very keen that the Ashes should be displayed in Australia," Rice said yesterday. "I have great sympathy for the view of many of Australia's cricketing and political intelligentsia.
"We were hoping to take them out this year, but they are in a very fragile condition. Insurers and British Museum experts advised us that they shouldn't go at the moment. So we have had to postpone it, but it has been there before and I hope very much it will go out there again."
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