Stuart Broad saved this man from expensive audible Australian smugness

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Bert writes…

Regular readers of this website will be aware that I have a standing bet with a good friend of mine, an Australian, on the outcome of each Ashes series. The Bet was established while drunk in late 2002, in The Craic pub in Whakatane NZ, a fine boozer if ever there was one. The rules of The Bet, as agreed at the time and subsequently formalised by a lawyer (he said he was a lawyer, although he was also drunk), are these:

  1. The parties agree that a bet of 12 bottles of red wine shall be wagered on the outcome of each official Ashes test cricket series.
  2. In the event of an England win, the wine shall be Australian.
  3. In the event of an Australian win, the wine shall be English oh all right then European.
  4. In the event of a drawn series neither side is deemed to have won, and therefore neither party is liable to pay up.
  5. To make the same point, a retention IS NOT a win.
  6. Can you not hear me or something? Just because your lot has retained the Ashes DOES NOT mean you get the wine, okay.

I mention this so that you can appreciate exactly what Stuart Broad’s final delivery in test cricket meant to me. It meant that I don’t have to dread each Friday morning, just starting my day’s work, for the possibility of receiving a call from Melbourne, where it is evening, from a half-cut Victorian with a bottle in one hand and a corkscrew in the other. Having to listen to the unmistakeable thwoppp of a cork being drawn. Having to hear, literally hear, the grin all over his smug face. And most importantly, having to take it when the Victorian raises a toast to Ben Stokes, who as losing captain is deemed to be the person most responsible for the state of ownership of the wine. Twelve times. TWELVE TIMES, spread out over about a year usually.

But now there will be none of that, not till early in 2026 at the earliest. It is true that I won’t get the opportunity for smugness either, but this is far less of a concern. Actually (surprising but true fact coming up), if England win that series it will be the first time in OVER TEN YEARS that I will have been able to raise a glass to whoever is Australian captain at the time.

Cricket is changing, test cricket especially, but The Bet remains a constant, an island of stability in an ocean of change. Some of the details might shift a little – the next time I win I am considering Bazdrinking the wine, for example – but what matters does not. Since that evening in 2002, the score in test matches is Australia won 31, England won 18, with 11 draws. Ownership of the urn is similarly slanted, Australia having fourteen years to England’s nine. But these things are irrelevant, because the score in series wins is five-all, and hence the score in bottles of red wine is sixty-all. Each of these 120 bottles has been appreciated for its flavour, for the cricket memories it brings back, and for the global friendship it has helped maintain.

The Victorian was here this year, with me at the Old Trafford test, Day 3. After Lord’s, there was every chance that the series could have already been lost by then, or worse, actually lost on that day. I had threatened to buy him the wine there and then if that happened, ten thousand miles from his home. During the rain break on Day 5 at the Oval, I was browsing Dan Murphy’s online catalogue. But the rain stopped, Woakes swung and Ali spun, and then Stuart Broad stepped up and did his thing. Cheers Stuey. I owe you for that.


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  1. Last Monday was a nail-biter, but I just about managed to hold myself together during that final session. Had I known that the outcome of The Bet was still in the balance, I might not have been able to contain myself.

    I don’t think the Whakatane drunk could have been a lawyer, although goodness knows, most lawyers do seem to hail from the Bay of Plenty. But a real lawyer would have started Clause Five with the phrase, “For the avoidance of doubt”, because that’s what real lawyers do. Then you wouldn’t have needed Clause Six. Although, come to think of it, if you were paying the lawyer by the word, you might still have end up with Clause Six prefaced with the phrase, “For the avoidance of further doubt”.

    It is genuinely interesting to note that the “actual series wins” tally since the inception of The Bet is 5-5. Also interesting to realise that you have not yet had to stump up for an Australia series win in England, whereas your potentially smug Aussie mate has had to do so for an England series win in Australia.

    Fun read Bert, thanks.

  2. Of course, we all know it was a moral victory for England. The moral wine must taste even sweeter.

    1. I find it hard to believe that The Bet would ever be settled with sweet red wine.

      Would Madeira, for example, even qualify as European wine under Clause 3? It is politically Europe, granted, but this hopelessly ambiguous clause might well be limiting the choice to the European mainland. Further proof that the Whakatane waffler was not a real lawyer.

      I’ll be seeing some experts in sports law at Lord’s later today. Bert. For a modest fee (low tens of thousands of guineas) I’m sure I could get you an opinion on the rules of The Bet – plus, for the same fee again, a more sensible redraft.

      1. Twelve bottles of Madeira? Yes, that sounds like a useful plan for next time. I’m sure your modest lawyers would agree wholeheartedly that this would qualify as allowable “pursuant to articles 1 and 3 of the aforementioned contract.” Don’t ask them though, you know what lawyers are like.

  3. Bazdrinking sounds like the sort of thing that got Stokes into trouble in Bristol.

    1. Hugely impressive. A weird parallel to former cyclist Nicolas Roche and his Irish-French accent.

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