As the anniversary of England’s last Test match win grows closer, Sir Ian Botham has backed the side to finally bounce back, and secure a series victory over India.
Two very different teams
The touring side have just embarked on a five-match series with England, and the former all-rounder is confident that James Anderson can help fire Alastair Cook’s side to victory.
The last time these teams met in England, it was very favourable for the hosts, who completed a 4-0 whitewash, which secured their spot at the top of the ICC Test rankings.
But since 2011, both sides have changed remarkably, with big names retiring, or being unavailable this summer for various other reasons.
The likes of Sahin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Andrew Strauss, Graeme Swann and Kevin Pietersen will all be absent this time around.
Nevertheless, Botham believes that England have what it takes to get out of the rut that they have found themselves in since landing in Australia for last winter’s dismal Ashes tour.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the former Test captain explained: "It's got to be an England win for me. India's batting is very strong but it's their bowling department where they are weak.
“England aren't playing well but I think India's bowlers will struggle and with home advantage England will have the edge."
India are currently without the services of the experienced Zaheer Khan. While England’s batsmen won’t have to contend with the left-arm fast bowler, they have concerns of their own regarding the bowling unit.
The spinning void left with the retirement of Swann has yet to be filled sufficiently, with Cook and Peter Moores opting to utilise part-time spin bowlers instead.
That puts more pressure on England’s seamers, who were unable to bowl the side to victory against Sri Lanka. The first Test agonisingly ended in a draw as the home side failed to take 10 second innings wickets and the tourists held on for a draw.
But Botham feels as though England have enough with the ball to force victories, especially if Anderson can add to the 12 wickets he claimed in the opening two Test matches of the summer.
"Anderson is the man England will look to get the wickets. The value for me is with Stokes. He looks like he's back to fitness and I think they'll play him as he gives the side balance,” said the 58-year-old.
Ben Stokes – who was so impressive down under – has recovered from a hand injury to return to the side, displacing Chris Jordan in the process. He will once again need to be in form with both bat and ball to push the team towards victory.
Victories with this developing squad would very much provoke praise for the ability of under-fire captain, Alastair Cook.
A comfortable victory
And as Botham has suggested, that could be alleviated in the next few weeks, as England and India contest five Test matches in just 42 days.
Beefy’s confidence in the side has produced a prediction that Cook’s side will deservedly claim the series.
He added: "I think England will win the series by two Tests either three-one or two-nil, it certainly won't be as one-sided as the last time they met in England. The weather is likely to play a part in one or two matches but I think overall England to win three-one is a good bet."