Nightwatchmen call in to Sporting Index

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of thousands of husbands and boyfriends across the land have been creeping out of their beds to make covert phone calls in the middle of the night.

With the battle for the Ashes raging Down Under, cricket fans have inundated spread-betting firms to make wagers on the outcome of each day's play. And because of the 10-hour time difference between the UK and Australia, punters have been phoning in bets in the middle of the night.

Sporting Index, one of the largest spread-betting companies in the UK, has hired extra staff to deal with a flood of nocturnal flutters.

It expects to take over 100,000 bets on the Ashes and accommodate stakes in excess of £7.5m.

Sporting Index makes predictions about how many runs a batsman will make in an innings or how many wickets a particular bowler will take. Punters then bet on whether the outcome will be higher or lower than the company's prediction.

One Sporting Index customer staked £200 per run on the Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, scoring more than the predicted 62 in the first innings of the first Test match in Brisbane. Ponting was eventually out for 196, netting the customer £26,800.

A spokesman for Sporting Index said: "What we win or lose depends on how right or wrong we are and what stake we've elected to bet with. So, while the majority of us sleep, thousands are being won and lost on an event 10,000 miles away."

He added: "The one thing that our customers have in common is they'll be spending the next four weeks getting up in the middle of the night and sneaking downstairs to make a phone call. So if you hear a bump in the night, don't worry - Christmas hasn't come early."