Botham exhorts England to clinch Ashes

Published: Wednesday, March 9, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Ian Botham, England's greatest Aussie basher, has urged England to thrash the 'convicts' and win the Ashes this summer.

The legendary all-rounder, who inspired England to victory in the epic 1981 Ashes series and was also a member of the last England team to beat the Aussies back in 1986-87, believes Michael Vaughan's men can end a generation of Australian dominance.

"A few years ago England would have struggled to beat the Eskimos," Botham told The Sun.

"Now they've a chance of beating Australia. Anyone who has played against them will tell you there is no better feeling than beating the convicts - they are a great sporting nation."

But Botham fears Shane Warne could still decide the outcome.

"There is not much between the teams in terms of batting. Whichever side bowls best as a pack will win the series. England certainly have a chance."

Botham said leg-spin wizard Warne, banned for a year for failing a drugs test after the last Ashes series, was expecting a tough scrap with the Poms.

"I can assure you Shane Warne is worried - well, certainly wary, keyed up and expecting a fight. The Aussies are expecting a bigger battle than they have had for a long time. Its our best chance in almost 20 years. Warne is still the major factor for them. He's the best leg-spinner that ever lived."

Botham insists England must pick new batting sensation Kevin Pietersen from the start of the summer after he hammered three centuries in the recent One-day series against South Africa.

Pietersen is yet to play Test cricket but Beefy believes he must face Bangladesh in a two-Test series in the early summer as England crank up their Ashes preparations.

"Pietersen has to play in the Ashes. I dont know how the selectors will fit him in but they have to. He and Andrew Flintoff will empty the bars when they bat this summer. No one will want to miss them batting together."

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