Sir Ian Botham’s Ashes Tips: Pietersen to lead the way in 1st Test victory


During my England days we played a six test series, so luckily for Australia they'll only have to cry into their tinnies five times over the summer. I am sticking by my prediction of an England whitewash. Not even the rain can save the Aussies - the sun is here to stay.

And the key man for England will be Kevin Pietersen - he is on a mission.

KP has not enjoyed being out of the team due to injury and I think he'll want to show everyone what they've been missing. He'll give Australia a chance, but he will punish them too. Get on KP to strut his stuff (12.00 with Unibet to be named man of the match for the first Test). KP is one of the most exciting players in the world of cricket and I’m not alone in being very excited to see him back. I’m sure he’ll have a major impact somewhere along the line.

Jonathan Trott will be important, too. Steady as he goes, collecting runs and refusing to give his wicket away to anyone, Trott will be an immovable object at the crease. You can take your pick from the England batsman, but I'd back Trott to finish the match with the most runs, available with Unibet at 4.50.

And once Alastair Cook gets in, it will take a winch and a forklift truck to prise him out. He just wants to score more and more and I think he will have a feast this summer. He gets to bat longer than any other England player and usually takes full advantage.

The whole Australian effort revolves around Michael Clarke. Infact, if you lined up all the players from both sides and chose the best 11, you’d probably only pick one Australian and that’s Clarke. He is their best batsman, their leader and their most experienced player. In fact, Clarke is the one world class batsman Australia have, but he may be doing too much fire-fighting as captain to be able to score as heavily as he would like. But even though he bats at five, I reckon Clarke could be in nice and early, so he'll have plenty of time to try and survive. But in the battle of the skippers I would back Cook to outscore Clarke in the series - available here at odds of 1.90.

A key man for Australia will be Shane Watson. He is a class act who has scored runs in the Ashes before and will be bristling to show what he can do, but I expect England's bowlers to have the wood over both of them. Watson has bags of international experience and is certainly one to be wary of. Compare him with Chris Rogers, who hasn't played Test cricket for a long time, and I think the chances of Watson outscoring his teammate - available at 1.90 - are good.

Earlier this summer I shook Jimmy Anderson's hand after he took his 300th Test wicket for England - expect that figure to be up to around 330 plus by the end of the series. Like KP, Anderson is crucial to England's chances. He sets the tone with the ball and is a master of his craft and I expect him to be England's leading wicket taker in the first innings in Nottingham (available on Unibet at odds of 3.0). He is the best bowler on show and should have a field day, with Graeme Swann pushing him if the pitches take a bit of turn, which you normally find at Old Trafford and the Oval.

The Trent Bridge pitch has been under wraps to keep the sun off it, which is understandable. I expect to see a wicket with some pace with the new ball. It will be a little bit abrasive and I think we’ll get the ball reversing quite quickly. It’s going to be very dry and I expect Swanny to come into his own as the game progresses. There’s no spinner in their side that’s going to worry England.

If I had to pick a session that England would wrap up the victory, I’d look at the third session of day four, with Unibet offering 6.50 on that being the case.

The Australians have bowlers capable of taking wickets, but I suspect it will cost them a few more runs than England's. My mate Shane Warne has told me lots of good things about James Pattinson and from what I've seen of him he might grab the odd wicket if it hits a crack. But I’d back Cook repel everything that is thrown at him.

I think the appointment of Darren Lehmann is the smartest move Australia have made in a long time. He is a proper cricket man full of enthusiasm for the game and a decent bloke with it. I think he'll be good for them, but he's not the one bowling and batting.

The 125.0 for England to win 10-0 over the two Ashes series this year will certainly be lower if they get a 5-0 win here, and that is not as far-fetched as some are suggesting.  

Sir Ian Botham is a Unibet Armchair Ambassador and will be writing here exclusively throughout the Ashes series and across Unibet's Summer of Sport. 

The Ashes starts at Trent Bridge on Wednesday. Bet on the first Test with Unibet.