The Ashes: Sir Ian Botham left embarrassed by England team's decline


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The Independent Online

A select few England cricketers know what it is like to win a Test match in Perth. They number 11 to be exact since it has happened only once. It should come as no surprise to know that Sir Ian Botham is among them.

He was part of an unlikely combination, led by Mike Brearley, who defeated Australia by 166 runs at The Waca 35 years ago. With Ashes Tests beginning there in 1970, there was nothing for England before and nothing since and even Botham never featured in a winning team on three subsequent visits.

"You always have a prayer," he said. "But it's called last-chance saloon, lose in Perth, lose the Ashes. It's a good place to play, a great pitch to play cricket on."

He has been flummoxed, like almost all the travelling caravan, by the tourists' exhibitions so far. Playing to the audience, something he still does with elan after all these years, Botham predicted a 5-0 victory for England (and back in the summer said it was possible they could win all 10 Tests across two series). He never really expected that or this.

"I'm very disappointed," he said. "I always give it the bravado, 5-0, 5-0. In truth I was expecting a much tighter contest but at the moment we have had no contest. I am very surprised. I have no idea why and if I could put my finger on it the whole of the management team would be out of a job. But I don't know."

Botham is here in his long-term capacity as Sky commentator and despite a hospital visit which created immediate waves at the weekend is looking as fresh as a daisy after his latest charity walk in Sri Lanka just before the tour began. He covered 160 miles in eight days, chickenfeed for a veteran of so many walks but there was a hitch.

"It was tough," he said. "The distance wasn't a problem, 160 miles in eight days, but when you're doing it in 50 degrees centigrade and in 98 per cent humidity it knocks the hell out of you."

The walk raised £250,000 and counting for the village that Botham is helping to create south of Jaffna as part of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation project. The hell has been further knocked out of him since by England.

"Basically, in some ways I would rather be back on the walk," he said. "I find it quite embarrassing to be honest. I am very disappointed with the way the team has performed, under-performed I should say. I think electric shock treatment is probably needed here."

Sir Ian Botham's walk and the training for it were helped by Revitive IX, a drug-free medical device designed to increase leg circulation which is available in chemists