England news May 24, 2013

Botham hails 'terrific' Anderson

Sir Ian Botham has added his voice to those praising James Anderson as one of the leading bowlers in world cricket and suggested Anderson will "sail past" his England record.

Earlier in the week, England bowling coach David Saker praised Anderson as "the most skilful bowler in the world". Botham, England's leading Test wicket-taker with 383 victims, largely agreed with Saker and also backed Anderson to take well in excess of 400 Test wickets.

"He and Dale Steyn are ahead of the competition," Botham told ESPNcricinfo. "It's no surprise that the two best sides in world cricket have the two best bowling attacks in world cricket. South Africa have Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander and England have Anderson, Stuart Broad and, at the moment, Steven Finn with lots of competition waiting to get in.

"Anderson is right up there with the great England swing bowlers. Right up there. He's a terrific bowler. He's only 30 and he's kept himself very fit so he can easily play another 40 or 50 Tests. If you think that he will take, on average four wickets a match, well, he will sail past my record and he'll sail past 400, too. I think he can get up to 450 and beyond.

"Anderson has his got his own action. They tried to change him, but thank goodness he booted all that into touch and got on with bowling his way. He has his own style. He works on his other skills and fine-tuning his natural skills

"There is a lot of skill in what he does. Anyone can bowl an inswinger, but to do it as subtly as he does it with the slightest of movements becomes very difficult for the batsman to pick."

Botham also welcomed the success of Broad at Lord's and suggested that the Broad-Anderson partnership could yet develop into one of the most challenging in world cricket.

"That's the frustrating thing with Stuart," Botham said. "He's very much a rhythm bowler. When he gets it right, he is capable of those spells. You think of that spell against Australia at The Oval. He has height, the bounce and the pace to complement Anderson in the way that Morkel complements Steyn and like other partnerships of the past: like Willis, who had the pace, and Botham, or Lillee and Thompson, who was the one with the outright pace. That's the perfect combination: swing at one end; pace and bounce at the other."

Such confidence in the bowling attack and a firm belief that Kevin Pietersen will be fit for the Ashes had led Botham to the conclusion that poor weather presents Australia's best chance of avoiding a 5-0 Ashes whitewash.

"I actually do think England, if the weather does stay fine, could whitewash them," Botham said. "But they need the weather. That'll be the only thing, I think, that stops them.

"I don't see Australia competing with England for a little while, a few years yet. They appear, to me, to be struggling in quite a few departments at this stage. They've brought back players that are 35 years of age; never even heard of in Australia before. They even approached - we believe - Hussey and Ponting to see if they would come back and consider playing. Well, that's not the Australia I know. That's panic."

Sir Ian Botham is an official Unibet ambassador. Visit Unibet's new website at www.unibet.co.uk for the latest offers and free bets on this summer's biggest sporting events.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo