Lord Botham insists 'match winner' Stokes' bowling could Ashes key

Lord Botham insists ‘match winner’ Ben Stokes’ bowling could be England’s secret to unlocking Australia at the Ashes and should be used ‘in four or five over bursts’

  • England are aiming to win back the Ashes from Australia, starting in December
  • Ben Stokes’ batting is his most talked-about asset but his bowling could be key
  • Lord Botham believes Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad will play bit-part roles
  • The Ashes winner thinks Stokes, Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood will play 

Lord Botham believes it is Ben Stokes’ bowling rather than his batting that will prove crucial in England’s bid to win back the Ashes this winter.

Statistics suggest that Stokes, who returns as Test vice-captain at the Gabba in just over a fortnight following a nine-month absence triggered by a fractured finger, is more effective in his top-six role. The 30-year-old averages 37.04 with the bat and 31.68 with the ball.

However, Botham – a member of the England team that defied their pre-series ‘can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t field’ tag to win 2-1 in Australia 35 years ago – reckons the conditions down under will demand he is used prominently as part of Joe Root’s attack.

Ben Stokes will be a crucial weapon for England against Australia in the upcoming Ashes 

‘Ben is a match winner. I hope that he’s fit enough to bowl and strong enough because that will be crucial – he’s an aggressive bowler,’ Botham said during recordings of Inside the Tour, an eight-part podcast by Auddy chronicling that 1986-87 triumph.

‘Everyone talks about his batting – we know about that – but I think his bowling needs to be used in four or five over bursts on those Australian pitches when the ball is reasonably new as well.’

Stokes missed the 2017-18 Ashes due to an ECB suspension but highlighted the value Botham recognises in him as a bowler with 15 wickets across four appearances in 2013-14, his debut Test series.

And Botham foresees established new-ball duo Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad – with an accumulative tally of 1,156 Test wickets but a combined age of 74 – being used selectively over five matches which are practically back-to-back.

Lord Botham has backed Stokes to be effective bowling and batting in the series this winter 

‘There’s no point in us turning up with four 80-mile-an-hour bowlers because that Kookaburra ball after 10 overs is going to get smashed to all parts at that pace,’ he continued.

‘You need people like Mark Wood, Ben Stokes, (Ollie) Robinson – these are the guys that are going to play. Jimmy is going to play, but I don’t see him playing all the Tests, and I certainly don’t see Broady playing all the Tests.

‘So, it’s a chance for these other guys and I think England have to be brave in their selection. With Jimmy, you definitely play him in Adelaide for the day-nighter and then pick and choose how you want to do it.

‘You’ve got to look after Jimmy’s, he’s 39 now, so he needs a little bit of TLC. He will have a part to play; above everything else, he’s a senior pro and he can offer so much advice to the other guys, it’s essential he’s there.’

Experienced stars Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson could see less frequent action this Ashes

Botham also has a stark warning for the tourists’ batters as they prepare for Brisbane, the traditional fortress of Australian cricket that was nevertheless breached by India earlier this year.

‘A score of 250 all out is not going to help, and we’ve got to be realistic about that. If you’re going to win a Test in Australia, you need to score your runs in the first innings and put them under some form of pressure,’ he said.

‘You need 400-plus. The Australians will be in their face, and I hope England have the mental strength to cope with that. If they have, they’ve got a real chance.’ 

Inside the Tour – The Ashes 1986/87 will be released across all major podcast outlets on December 3. For more information and to subscribe to the series visit auddy.co and follow @InsideTourPod on Twitter.

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