But rumour has it that the Ashes start this morning at Nottingham.Rumour also has it that Sir Ian Botham has predicted back to back whitewashes for England – that they will win 10-0. Rumour has it that if FB made such a prediction he’d be told he’s bonkers and should take up something more useful like charity walking.
Rumour has it that England are stronger in all departments with Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swan rumoured as trump cards against a brittle Australian batting line up. There is lots being said about the swinging ball; about left handers in the Australian top order; about uncertain technique. There is lots being said about the emergence of Root; the return of Pietersen; the solidity of Trott. There is lots being said about the impact of Boof and the lightening of the load on Clarke. In all there is lots being said. According to the rumours. FB sees no need to say it all again.
But FB has thought a bit about Botham’s prediction. It would be an exceptional outcome. England have never won more than 8 Tests in a row in their whole history, and they have played more Tests than anyone else. Australia have twice won 16 in a row – between October 1999 and February 2001 – including 4 successive whitewash series - and between December 2005 and January 2008, which included the most recent Ashes whitewash when Flintoff’s misfiring side was put to the sword.
It is unusual for there to be back to back series against the same opposition – although England are making a habit of it this year having had 2 contests with New Zealand in advance of the Ashes double header. But whitewashes in successive series are also rare. England have done it only once, in 2004 when they beat New Zealand 3-0 before demolishing the West Indies 4-0.
Australia won 8 consecutive Tests against England in 1920 and 1921. England won 7 consecutive Tests against Australia between 1885 and 1888. England’s most recent whitewashing of Australia was in 1886.
Rumour has it that history is no predictor of future events. But rumour also has it that these data suggest a high degree of improbability in the Botham prediction. Rumour also has it that England are at their most vulnerable when they get above themselves. Do the players believe the journalistic rubbishing of the opposition?
As far as FB can see England do look the better more balanced side. But he expects a closer contest than Botham. - trumpet or no trumpet.
He makes no prediction as to the result, but hopes for a keenly contested series with matches going to the wire. But his predictions for man of the series for England will be Swan. Man of the series for Australia will be Clarke.