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Ian Botham
Cricket Expert and Columnist

Ashes 2013/14: Joe Root exceptional but England still have a long way to go

If England are 3-0 down after Perth, they could easily lose the series 5-0...

Aus v Eng - Second Test, Day 4 Highlights

England mustn't surrender the second Test meekly after improving on their 'terrible' first innings on day four in Adelaide, says Sir Ian Botham.

The tourists passed 200 for the first time in the series to reach 247-6 in their second innings but are still staring at a heavy defeat and a 2-0 series deficit after closing day four of the second Test 283 runs behind Australia with just four wickets left.

Joe Root, promoted to number three in Jonathan Trott's absence, top-scored with 87 and shared a stand of 111 with Kevin Pietersen (53) - England's first century partnership of the series.

But Botham said that England's minor improvement must be put into context after they were bowled out for just 172 in their first innings.

"They couldn't be any worse than the first innings, which was terrible," the former all-rounder told Sky Sports News. "To get blown away on this wicket, which is still pretty flat and has no real pace in it, just isn't good enough at this level.

Good

"I think England know that and they'll be embarrassed by their performance - and if they are not, then they should be.

"But today I thought Joe Root played exceptionally well. He hung in there. There was talk about whether he should bat at three or five but I thought he played very well with Kevin Pietersen; it was almost like the big daddy looking after his son out there.

"Root was unlucky to get out the way he did. It was good to see Pietersen play well and play within himself and try to build a big innings, which is not the way Kevin likes to play. He likes to dominate but today he realised that he had to work hard and he did.

"Then it was good to see Matt Prior and Stuart Broad getting some runs because both of those guys need some time out in the middle. So there are a few good things to come from today's play but overall England are way behind Australia at the moment."

Embarrassed

With England struggling to get a foot-hold in the series and key batsmen underperforming including captain Alastair Cook, who scored three and one in the second Test, the Sunday Times reported that 'England's senior players are fighting for their careers'.

However Botham ruled out the idea that the tourists would make a raft of changes ahead of the third Test, which begins in Perth on Friday.

"That's not going to happen," he declared. "England have got some young players out here but at the end of the day, these guys that won us two or three Ashes in a row have done us exceptionally well.

"You don't just walk out and say 'oh well, we'll get rid of everybody'. That would be ridiculous. I think the papers write this stuff because they are embarrassed - and I think a lot of people were embarrassed by what happened, particularly in the first game and here in the second innings.

"The best way England can put it right is to say 'ok, you guys have got us in this mess, now you go and get us out'."

Guts

Warner's softer side

England have lost their last six Tests in Perth and no England side has recovered from 2-0 down to win an Ashes series, so Botham said while all is not yet lost, it soon will be unless the tourists up their game.

"If England don't turn it around, they've lost," he said. "It's as simple as that. It's the last-chance saloon and sometimes that brings the best out of players. England will be well aware of it. They don't want to lose, they don't want to get hammered here.

"If they go 3-0 down they could easily lose 5-0 and they don't want to be the side that lost the Ashes and goes down like that. So they've got to fight back and they've got to show some guts.

"They've got to think about Mitchell Johnson. He bowls in three or four over bursts. He's one quick bowler. Ryan Harris does a good job but he bowls in the late 80mphs. The X-factor is Mitchell Johnson. I'm sure these boys are big and good enough to play him."

Watch highlights of day four from 11.30am on Sky Sports 2, then join us for The Ashes Verdict at 9pm and The Ashes Extra at 11pm on the same channel before our live coverage of day five gets underway at 11.30pm.