Sir Ian Botham's 3rd Ashes Test Preview: Last Chance Saloon For Embarrassing England

2nd Test recap - 'it was an embarrassment'

It was another ordinary performance from England in Adelaide. It's sad to say but they look like a side in decline right now.

Alastair Cook's team were well below par, and nowhere near the standards we’ve come to expect from an England cricket team. Before the 2nd Test I said England needed to fight fire with fire but instead they crumbled again.  

You cannot get bowled out for 172 on a pitch like that and still expect to win a Test match. I was actually embarrassed by that display, it was unacceptable.  

They want it more than us

Andy Flower might have said otherwise, but the bare evidence is that the Aussies want it more than we do at the moment. That’s why I’m not just worried about the failings of our top order. I’m worried about the team full stop. I’m worried about losing The Ashes.

What’s been discussed a lot since the latest defeat is how sloppy England were in field. But that’s just an inevitable legacy that comes with playing badly. Once confidence goes, then technique suffers, then sloppiness creeps in. It’s reminiscent of Australia when they themselves were putting catches down last summer – the classic sign of a team in trouble.   

Last chance saloon

Perth is the last chance saloon. If we do not get a result then there is nowhere to go and nowhere to hide.The England players have a couple of days to take a long hard look at themselves, unscrambled their brains and get out there and play cricket to the best of their ability – because that’s what they get paid for. They need to act like professionals and get themselves sorted out. 

Glimmer of hope

One rare bright spark among the darkness of the last Test was the excellence of young Joe Root, who really looks the part at this level. But it’s coming to something when the rookie has to lead the way with his guts and determination. It’s high time the captain and the senior professionals stepped up to the plate as well.  

Wake-up call 

We need to see guts from the England players in Perth. They need to use the defeats as a wake-up call and come out fighting rather than disappear into their shells. I want to see their true colours, because that’s the least the fans deserve. Thousands of supporters have sacrificed a lot to travel over here to support them, and millions are back at home watching on the TV, and they deserve more than what we’ve seen so far this series. 

Short-ball tactics

I can see Australia deploying the same tactics as they have throughout the series so far. The concern is that the WACA is a pitch ideally set up to compliment such an approach. Don’t be surprised if Australia name four seamers for this match, because the pitch is tailor-made for speed and a bit of swing.

Team selection

England must change a few things, notably losing one or maybe even both of the spinners. They need to bring in at least one of the quick seamers to bolster their bowling attack. Whether it’s Rankin or Finn, just work out who is the most fired up and then let them loose on the Aussie batsmen. 

History isn’t on our side

England have only beaten Australia once at the WACA in 12 previous attempts, and that was way back in 1978, so history isn’t on our side. England are out at 3.75 to pull off an improbable victory, but as far as I’m concerned it may as well be priced at 50.00 because that’s how much chance we have of winning this match.

Match prediction

England’s first yardstick target is to post more than 350 runs in the first innings. That’s one small step that will help them salvage pride and get back on track. Assuming they are able to do that, I would back the draw at 4.70. England are capable of winning the last two Tests and retaining the for sure, but it’s asking too much for victory this time around. 

I’m going to tip Joe Root, the form man. He has shown immense character when all around him have crumbled. Back him to continue in that vein at odds of 5.50.

I’m hoping we will see the ball swinging on the WACA pitch, and so I would go for Jimmy Anderson to come good in such circumstances at odds of 3.40. He will be hurting right now. But he’s a fighter and will be champing at the bit to put things right.

There’s some flickers of light at the end of this dark tunnel. We are only two matches into a five match series and we only need to draw the series to retain the Ashes. England would snap your hands off for 2-2, but that’s what they have to aim for. I believe that is realistic, providing England turn up, because they haven’t turned up yet in this series. 

It’s time to put up or shut up. 

Sir Ian Botham is an Ashes legend and a Unibet Armchair Expert. Read his betting tips on every Australia v England test match this winter exclusively here at 

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