Beefy's Big Sri Lanka Walk: Sir Ian continues with Kumar Sangakkara
Beefy's walk on day two and a local legend provides help and casts an eye on England's Ashes task
By Oli Burley - @SkySportsOli
Last Updated: 03/11/13 4:09pm
The Sri Lankan will be a keen observer when England begin their defence of the urn later this month and believes the popularity of the series has a vital role to play in preserving the five-day game for generations to come.
Sangakkara, who joined Sir Ian Botham on the second leg of his Big Sri Lanka Walk - a 17-mile route from Anuradhapura to Mihintale - believes Alastair Cook's men will find the going much tougher Down Under than they did during this summer's 3-0 victory at home.
"I think England still have the upper hand psychologically," said Sangakkara, an ambassador for the Foundation of Goodness charity, which will benefit directly from the trek.
"I thought the Ashes in England was a bit closer than everyone thought it would be, although the scoreline suggests otherwise.
"The competition was a lot more intense and a lot closer than I thought it would be and I think in Australia it is going to get tougher, but England have a great bunch of players.
"It was interesting to see how the Aussie bowlers were starting to work out the English batsmen as the Ashes progressed and into the one-day series, so it will be a tough challenge for both sides to see what they can come up with.
"It will make for much more interesting watching. So fingers crossed for a really good series. Test cricket doesn't have enough context in the world today, it doesn't have enough attendance when it comes to spectators - it's not really attractive.
"But when you see the Ashes and you watch it on TV and you see all the spectators you can understand how important it is to have such an iconic series. So it will be great for the game if it is as competitive as it's ever going to be."
After burning off over 4,200 calories along the A9 on the opening leg of his walk, Botham eased off the pace a little on day two along a route that took in the stunning sights of Anuradhapura's Sacred City and finished in Mihntale, regarded by many as the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Under overcast skies, he was applauded to the finish line by enthusiastic schoolchildren, who then waited in line for their chance to receive a life-saving gift from the former England all-rounder.
"They've had real problems in this area with water pollution and their not sure where it's come from," explained Botham. "It has caused a lot of kidney problems.
"So we've got 350 water bottles that the kids can use three times a day; they can put puddle water in, which the bottle filters and it lasts three months. So hopefully it will make a bit of a difference."
And what of that man Sangakkara?
"He's a great lad," he said. "He's a good friend and has been for many years. He's too bright, though, isn't he? He'll probably end up being President of Sri Lanka!"
You can follow Botham's progress on Sky Sports News, online with skysports.com and on your Ipad. To donate to Beefy's fund-raising effort simply visit www.justgiving.com/BeefysSriLankaWalk