Sir Ian Botham believes James Anderson will eclipse him as England’s all-time leading wicket-taker.
Anderson helped destroy New Zealand with seven wickets in the first Test but, at 305, remains 78 wickets shy of Botham’s tally.
He is just the fourth Englishman to reach the triple-century milestone alongside Botham, Fred Trueman and Bob Willis.
Trueman and Willis’ figures of 307 and 325 respectively seem well within reach and Botham insists he can get beyond 383, a record that that has stood for over twenty years.
“I think he’ll hit 450,” Botham stated. “I said that to him but he wasn’t overly impressed. I think he suddenly thought ‘450 - that’s a long, long way away’ but he will definitely reach it.
“I think by the end of the Ashes, he will be very close to overhauling me if he hasn’t already, which will be great.
“He’s got four or five years left as the leader of the attack and with the amount of cricket they play these days, he’ll sail past it.”
Botham isn’t the only one to heap praise upon the 30-year-old, with England’s bowling coach David Saker claiming Anderson was the ‘most skilful fast spin bowler in the world’ earlier this week – a bold claim that former England captain Botham partially agrees with.
“I think he and Dale Steyn are on par. I think the two of them are the ‘top of the pops’, if you like. They are the best two bowlers operating in world cricket at the moment.”
It was the skill and tenacity of both Anderson and Stuart Broad that helped England to a first-Test victory over New Zealand at the tail end of last week, with the duo combining to see the Kiwis all out for just 68 in their second innings after a below-par performance at the crease from England’s batsmen.
Botham is not concerned, though, and believes the squad will vastly improve their performance level when they begin their second Test at Headingley on Friday, on what will prove to be a better playing surface.
Speaking at the UK launch of sports book Unibet, he said: “I jest quite a lot when I’m in the commentary box about how the bowlers bailed out the batsmen yet again but being an all-rounder’s quite nice because when the batsmen are doing well, I can jump into that camp as well. It’s a very big fence that I sit on.
“I’m not concerned about the England batsmen, though. The pitch was very slow at Lord’s because we’ve had a very cold start to the year. You go and walk on the outfield, you can see where the squares are and that they haven’t knitted yet because we haven’t had the warmth and rain.
“Headingley is a bit of a batsman’s paradise at the moment because they’ve had warmer weather so the pitch is quicker. I think the batsmen will get the runs they’re expected to in the next game, which then builds it up nicely for the Ashes.
“New Zealand will come out fighting. They were all a bit shell-shocked after the first game – they didn’t quite know what happened but that’s down to England. They steamed in and blew them away.
“England will win the next Test, though. They like winning and it’s a good habit to get into, particularly ahead of back-to-back Ashes series.”
Botham, who captained England in the 1981 Ashes tour, remains equally as confident that Alastair Cook’s men will triumph against the Australians when they meet twice in the space of a few months later this year following a shift in the cricket calendar.
Despite some voicing concerns about the scheduling of two Ashes series so close together, Botham believes this will only add spice to the already hotly-anticipated meeting, but also admits he would have relished the chance of playing in such a scenario.
Botham said: “I’d love to have played in a back-to-back series because when you have five test matches, there’s always aggression, there’s always a few niggles, but then, suddenly, you don’t see each other for two years. This time, it’s for two months. Australia are desperate to win, but England will win it.
“England have had their springboard game here at Lord’s. They had a very dodgy first day but got better. The bowlers were excellent and I don’t see that changing. I think England will go from strength to strength. They are in a very healthy position, with competition for places, and I expect them to deal with Australia appropriately.
“There’s going to be so much expectation and anticipation. We’ll out-bowl them, because they don’t have a spinner and we have plenty. If the weather stays fine, England could even have the chance of a whitewash.
“We’ll be targeting Michael Clarke, that’s for sure. If we can knock the captain over and their best player, then psychologically, it’ll send waves through their dressing room.”
Botham is also tipping Yorkshire youngster Joe Root to shine in both the Ashes series after the 22-year-old registered England’s highest score with the bat at Lord’s, hitting 71.
“Joe Root is growing by the minute, in stature and confidence. The way this young man’s developing and the way he’s coming to fruition is fantastic. I think he’s the real deal.”
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