Former England all-rounder Sir Ian Botham believes England can beat the Proteas on their own turf, and keep up an unbeaten record that has lasted 16 years.
Botham started his ‘Walking the Rainbow Nation’ eight-day walk around South Africa on Thursday to raise money for four charities – Nazareth House Cape Town, the Chipembere Rhino Foundation, the Waitrose Foundation and the Kliptown Youth Programme. Day one saw him walk 18km from the Table Bay Hotel to Llandudno, with a healthy entourage of people including former Springbok No 8 Morne du Plessis.
The eight-day journey marks his 30th year of walks and his 60th birthday. In 2007 he was honoured with a knighthood for his services after raising £10-million for leukemia. There’s every chance that this might be his last series of walks, but he hinted that his last one could be in Australia.
‘Without the cricket success, I wouldn’t have had the success with the fundraising,’ said Botham. ‘What I achieved on the cricket field stood me in good stead for what we have done here.
‘There’s a lot of worthy causes out there, and every single penny we raise here stays in South Africa.’
While ‘Beefy’ has a soft spot for the country, he didn’t fancy their chances of coming away with a victory against England, despite beating them 2-0 the last time they met in England in 2012, and boasting an ICC ranking five places better.
‘England beat an aging and injury-prone Australia side in the Ashes recently, and I think South Africa have a similar problem,’ he said. ‘Injuries don’t go away. Dale Steyn has been struggling for a while, and it’s been a while since he’s bowled consistent spells in tandem with Morne Morkel.
‘England on the other hand are a young and emerging side,’ he continued. ‘They’re coming into it fresh, and I think their bowling attack is pretty strong.’
Beefy also singled out a particular England player who made his debut against the South Africans in 2012, but struggled to deal with the pace and bounce of Morkel.
‘It’s a real opportunity for someone like James Taylor to step in now and make a name for himself. There’s plenty to pick from and there’s a lot of competition for places, so I think they have a really realistic chance of winning the series.’
‘I think it will be a keenly contested tour and it’s a long overdue one. It will be tight but I’m going to go with England.’