Sir Ian Botham: England must look to youth after Ashes tie with Australia

Sir Ian Botham says England should look to bed in some young talent into their Test team as they build for the future and plan for the Ashes in Australia in two years time.

England drew this summer’s Ashes series after clinching a 135-run win in the fifth and final Test at The Oval, but Australia retain the urn with the 2-2 tie.

Botham believes the final result is a fair reflection on the series, adding that Steve Smith and his staggering 774 runs for the series has proven the difference between the two sides.

“Things swung in that first Test at Edgbaston,” said Botham. “Australia were 122-8 and then built those partnerships with the tailenders.

“Steve Smith was magnificent. And he has been the standout for the whole series.

“I actually said, if he doesn’t fail today, he’s not human. He did, by his standards, fail [scoring 23] but he has been quite amazing.

“If you look at the two sides, batting was a problem for both, particularly the top order. Ben Stokes was the exception for England and Steve Smith for Australia.

“I think the pace attack of Australia has been exceptional. They’ve played better cricket than us.

“But England are in a pretty good place generally, they just need a bit of fine tuning.

“With the bowling, we’re in a similar situation to Australia, we’ve got a lot of young talent coming through but England need to look at the batting line-up.

“Are they going to look at younger players, which I think they should do? It’s a couple of years till we’re back for the Ashes in Australia – you’ll want to have a side that is settled, so now is the time to start looking at that.

“In New Zealand, it’s a great opportunity to experiment, have a look and see what these young guys can do. Zac Crawley, players like that, who everyone has been talking about.”

Botham was speaking in his and great mate David Gower’s final stints as broadcasters for Sky Sports after 25 years of service, and he reflected fondly on his time behind the microphone.

“It has been fun,” he added. “It was the start of Sky and I said at the time, ‘what are we going to do? Where are we going to go with this?’

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