Cricket, lovely cricket

NOW that an Australian is coaching the England cricket team, I can look forward to the Ashes series starting in July in the UK.

As a Pom Down Under for more than a quarter of a century, I have always supported English sporting teams against the rampant Aussies. It’s cost me a few bob as I was drawn into bets with my Aussie mates.

‘It’s the Ashes, Len,’ they’d say. ‘Time for a bet,’ they’d say. ‘Need to swell the coffers a bit,’ they’d say.

And time after time I would lose.

Cricket, rugby, tennis, even on one occasion football – or soccer as it’s known Down Under. Can’t lose this one, I thought. It’s football. Dammit, England invented the game.

I was wrong again. We (that is, England) lost 2-1 at Wembley. At home! Unbelievable.

How about darts? That’s an English institution, isn’t it? All that training in the fine English pubs. But alas, Australia produced a world champion in 2002, the very year I chose darts as my retort to my grinning oppressors.

There was a brief respite in 2003 when England won the Rugby World Cup. My wife and I were with Australian friends as we watched on TV that heart-stopping final against, yes, you guessed it, Australia. A sweet chariot victory indeed.

But it was in cricket that I was let down so often.  Gower, Gooch, Atherton, Stewart, Hussain. They came, they played but they failed to conquer. Eight Ashes series in a row went to the Aussies.

Eventually, of course, my mates were taking pity on me. ‘No, you’re alright,’ they would say. ‘Let’s give it a miss this year. You’ve lost far too many times.’

And so it was that there were no bets laid in 2005; the year England won the Ashes under Michael Vaughan.

My Union Jack flag fluttered proudly on my office desk. My colleagues tried to avoid the subject. I was proud to be a Pom Down Under.

Of course, it didn’t last. We were trounced in the following series two years later, but recovered to win three series in a row. And still no betting!

Australia took the 2013-2014 series 5-0, the third clean sweep in the history of the Ashes – and all three to Australia.

That makes this summer’s series in England very important, because Australia are leading the series victories with 32 to 31.

It seems to me that the appointment of Trevor Bayliss as England’s first ever Australian head coach could make all the difference to my betting strategy. Now why didn’t we think of it before?

Len Horne

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