Ashes 2013/14: England's batsmen must show guts and character against Mitchell Johnson
If they don't perform with the bat in the first innings, it's 3-0...
Last Updated: 16/12/13 6:03pm
The tourists need to take four more wickets before they can begin their first innings after Australia reached stumps on 326-6 on day one at the WACA, having been 143-5 at one stage.
But having compiled only 136 and 179 in the first Test defeat at Brisbane, and 172 and 312 in the second Test defeat in Adelaide, Botham told the Sky Sports Ashes Podcast that England must improve dramatically against left-armer Johnson (17 wickets at 12.70) to have any hope of retaining the urn.
"England are not out of the game because it is such a good deck but they are going to have to show a lot of guts and character when they get to bat," said the former England all-rounder.
"They will have to man up against Mitchell Johnson. He's just one bowler. I find it very hard to comprehend the way they England side have played it. They've been bullied. The one thing that scares me a little bit is that they were bullied at Adelaide by Mitchell Johnson - and that's a slow pitch. This is a quick one.
"They haven't kept Johnson out in the field yet. Bowlers are not so quick when they have to bowl 40 overs per innings; it tends to slow them down a bit! Michael Clarke looks after him but if runs are being scored, Clarke is going to have to use Johnson, but we haven't kept him out there.
"England have got to bat long in the first innings and make sure that when they get in they make the most of it. Steve Smith has been a great example of what can be done on this pitch.
"At 143-5 I thought England were right in it and yet again they can't close it down. Fair play to Steve Smith, who batted extremely well for his hundred; whether we bowled the right lines to him, I'm not sure. But that's gone now. England will be disappointed. It's Australia's day for me.
"England are looking down the barrel of going 3-0 down. They need to perform tomorrow to stay in this series. If they don't perform with the bat in the first innings, it's 3-0."
England made just one change to the side beaten by 218 runs in Adelaide, recalling Tim Bresnan at the expense of spinner Monty Panesar, which meant that seamers Chris Tremlett, Boyd Rankin and Steve Finn were once again left on the sidelines.
Botham said that the fact the towering trio had once again been overlooked suggests that the England management believe they aren't bowling to their best.
"If the big men were ready and the bowling coach, the captain and the coach had faith in them and they were ready to go, they'd be playing but obviously I don't think they've come on as [bowling coach] David Saker would have liked otherwise they would have been an automatic choice on this surface," he said.
"They maybe thought that Tim Bresnan would give them a little bit of stability into the wind, a little like Terry Alderman used to do for Australia.
"The thing that surprised me is that the ball hasn't swung at any stage. Mitchell Johnson possibly swung a couple at Adelaide, but that's it. That is a massive, massive blow to the England attack."
Saker was critical of England's bowling lengths after day one and Botham agreed that the seamers let Smith off the hook.
He explained: "They bowled too full in the morning, then they bowled better but they lost the plot a little bit from lunch to tea. They bowled far too short at Smith, who is a good player of the short ball; he just ducked under it and when it wasn't quite short or wide enough he would pull it.
"He's a good cross-bat player either side of the wicket and I think England fell between two targets. On this pitch the most successful bowlers bowl length. To Smith you bowl fifth-stump length. I don't think England did enough of that."
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Watch highlights of today's play on Sky Sports 2. The Ashes Verdict returns to deliver its judgement at 9pm on the same channel. Our coverage of day two of the third Test begins at 2.25am on Saturday morning.