LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Ashley Kerekes, a 22-year-old babysitter from Massachusetts, was surprised to find that, overnight, her 300 Twitter followers had grown to 10,000. Why was she so popular all of a sudden?
To add to the mystery, she was being sent some very strange tweets indeed. Talk of test matches, maiden overs, silly mid-offs, wickets and full tosses are not the normal subjects of Twitter talk in New England childminding circles.
The explanation? Ms. Kerekes' Twitter name is @theashes, after the nickname her boyfriend gave her four years ago.
The Ashes is also the name given to cricket's fiercest rivalry -- a series of matches, each lasting five days, that take place between England and Australia once every two years. It is called The Ashes because the two teams fight for an urn, which possibly contains the ashes of a cricket bat. (Nobody can remember as far back as 1882 when it all started.)
Ms. Kerekes at first got angry about having her Twitter account bombarded by cricket fans in the middle of the night, keeping here awake as her phone notified her of every tweet. She tweeted in protest, "I'M NOT A FREAKING CRICKET MATCH!!!!!" and kept away from Twitter for a while.
Eventually, though, her interest was piqued, and she asked tweeters to explain cricket's very confusing rules to her. Her devoted followers set up a hashtag: #gettheashestotheashes, and Ms. Kerekes became a media sensation in the U.K., with TV appearances on the BBC and satellite channel Sky, and interviews in national newspapers.
Marketers spotted an opportunity, and Qantas -- Australia's national airline -- quickly offered to fly Ms. Kerekes to Australia, so that she could finally get to understand what cricket was all about. She jumped at the free holiday idea, and on Nov. 29, the airline tweeted, "@Qantas_Airways confirms it is bringing @theashes to Australia for The Ashes." The cricket matches, which started late last week, continue until the end of January.
Finally Vodafone, which sponsors The Ashes, responded with its own tweeted offer. "If @theashes can get over here we'll pony up tickets and a phone so she can tweet."