Ian Botham has pleaded with Ashes curators to produce pitches that won’t flatten England’s hopes of reclaiming the urn.
Australia are expecting the hosts will attempt to nullify the express pace and bounce of Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc with lifeless decks in all five Tests.
England’s greatest allrounder Botham believes such a move would prove counterproductive.
“We don’t want flat wickets. That’s playing right into Australia’s hands,” Botham said at a Hardys wine promotional event.
“Please don’t serve up five-day corporate pitches.
“If you do, we might as well send the Ashes back now because that’ll play right into Australia’s hands.
“If we play on good sporting pitches, England have got as good a chance as Australia. They’re at home and also nobody thinks they’re going to win.”
Botham suggested Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad had to “perform and be aggressive”, while it was up to captain Alastair Cook to match Michael Clarke’s intent in the field.
“Teams have worked out England used to sit back with defensive fields and wait for sides to make mistakes,” he said.
“Don’t do that now. This Australian team will go at you hard so I think England have got to come back hard.”
And Botham felt England finally had someone capable of doing that with sheer speed.
Mark Wood grabbed nine wickets in the two-Test series, his express pace drawing comparisons with fellow Ashington product Steve Harmison.
Botham was impressed.
“He’s something England haven’t had since Steve Harmison in his peak – that extra bit of pace,” Botham said.
“Whether he (bowls 145-150 km/h) in Cardiff, we’ll have to wait and see. It’s a slow deck.”
Botham wanted untried legspinner Adil Rashid to be picked ahead of Moeen Ali, warning Australia would target the latter’s offspin.
The 59-year-old was full of praise for Ben Stokes, opining that no English allrounder has had so much potential in the past 20 years.
“I’ve been impressed since I first saw him a couple of years ago. Why on earth and how anybody could possibly leave him out of the World Cup is totally beyond me,” he said.
“But that decision was made and Ben Stokes reacted in the best way possible – he turned up, scored runs and took wickets.
“He’s got the right attitude. He’s a tough competitor.”