The Ashes 2010-11 December 9, 2010

Flower praises 'perfect game'


Andy Flower has praised his players for producing "the perfect game" in their innings-and-71-run victory over Australia at Adelaide last week, but has challenged them to maintain the same intensity that has put them 1-0 up with three Tests remaining of this year's Ashes series.

Speaking in Melbourne shortly after the team's arrival, and ahead of their three-day warm-up match against Victoria, Flower admitted how proud he had been of a performance that England had dominated from the moment Simon Katich was run out without facing in the first over of the match. But, he quickly added, there is always room for improvement.

"From anyone's point of view, the players are proud of the way they performed in that Test and rightly so, and so are we as the coaching group," said Flower. "It was a superb effort. You don't often get the perfect game like that, do you, when you bowl the opposition out on a good deck on the first day, then get a big lead and bowl them out again before you have to bat again. It was lovely."

With Alastair Cook following up his Brisbane double-hundred with another big score of 148, and Kevin Pietersen emerging from his lean trot with 227, the highest score of his Test career, England were able to post an imposing first-innings total of 620 for 5 declared, their highest score against Australia since the Second World War.

Flower, however, believes that is just the start for his squad. "Without a doubt we can improve," he said. "That's the first time that we've seen batsmen back up big hundreds with more big runs - it's not often that our guys deliver big hundreds consecutively - and that's a great thing to see. But one outstanding match doesn't give you any guarantee of success in the future. So we are always looking to improve and that's what we are doing. Fielding-wise, we didn't take every chance, and while that's not always possible, it's an area we can never be complacent about."

England's attentions now turn to the Melbourne warm-up match, a first-class fixture that Flower insists will be tackled with the same intent as each of the three games that preceded the Brisbane Test. On the bowling front, that goes without saying, given that Stuart Broad's injury (and James Anderson's temporary absence through paternity leave) has opened the door to the three reserve seamers in the squad, who will be desperate to impress with the Perth Test fast approaching on December 16.

Flower insisted that he already had a good idea in his own mind which of the three men - Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad - would be best suited to the WACA conditions, and that surely has to be Tremlett, given that his 6'8" frame will be ideally suited to a venue that is expected to offer the sort of carry that once earned it the reputation as the fastest wicket in the world.

"I expect pace and bounce," said Flower. "Chatting to the curator during the three-day game against Western Australia [last month], he said he wanted the Test pitch to have more pace and bounce than the pitch we played on. It should make for exciting cricket."

"Tremlett brings you heavy bounce, with the ball coming from that height, and he bowls a consistent length," said Flower. "He's not express pace, but it's imposing as a batsman when someone of that height and size is running in at you. He'll bring consistency with that bounce, and that's why he did well this last English summer, because he bowled a consistent length."

Both Shahzad and Bresnan would also offer plenty to England's cause, however, as Flower went on to spell out their respective merits. "Bresnan is an experienced cricketer, even though he's relatively young," he said. "He's a strong man, he's accurate, he bowls skilful reverse swing, and obviously he bats and fields as well. While some quarters view him as a medium pacer, he bowls quick enough to beat good players. He's got a quick bouncer.

"Shahzad bowls very well at left-handers, and we saw that at Hobart," said Flower. "That's not to say he's not effective against right-handers, but he's more dangerous against left-handers. He's got enough pace to beat good players, and if the ball reverses he can reverse it both ways. And he's fit and strong and can run in for you all day."

While none of the three options has the same experience as Broad, Flower insisted that the aim was not to find a like-for-like replacement, but for whoever is selected to be their own man. "Stuart brought a lot of things to our side, and we will miss him greatly," said Flower. "But whoever takes his place will have to maximise whatever his strengths are, and not try to replace Stuart Broad or in anyway be like him. He's got to be himself."

IF England need any encouragement to keep their feet on the ground, they need only remember what happened in the last Ashes in England in 2009, when they squandered a hard-earned series lead at Lord's with a thumping defeat at Headingley two matches later, and again in South Africa the following winter, when a superb innings victory in Durban was counteracted by a crushing defeat in Johannesburg that left the series squared at 1-1.

Flower, however, looked at those examples as inspiration for the team to maintain their current high standards. "You learn the value of consistency and having the mental and emotional strength to remain on an even plane," he said. "And also you learn that you have to work hard to ensure that your skills are in order, that they can survive and thrive under pressure over a long period of time and not just periodically. For us as a group, those are all good learning experiences.

"I think they are all well equipped to do it, but there are no guarantees," he added. "That's the nature of international sport and that's what makes it exciting. We don't know what's going to happen. But our group is quite strong in that regard at the moment, and I expect them to be more consistent than we were in the past."

Probable England team v Victoria 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Ian Bell, 4 Paul Collingwood, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Matt Prior, 7 Steve Davies (wk), 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Ajmal Shahzad, 10 Chris Tremlett, 11 Monty Panesar.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on December 12, 2010, 6:25 GMT

    firstly well done England, i can see your heads growing outta control already. Its about time the poms had a competitive team, shame about the last 2 decades were you's couldn't win even a game of hop-scotch. Australia might be down atm but i bet u poms cant dominate world cricket in all forms for two decades, @ dozbo, AnderWho? even a no hoper like u could bowl good against Australia atm, i fought anderson was a batter my bad....Anderson or McGrath, Glenn plz @jayray999 plz swan? couldn't turn door handle, dorerty was turning the ball more and i dont rate him as a club spinner, only time swan gets wickets is when the ball rarely turns 2 degrees and shocks the batter. Warne theres a spinner. You poms can say im living in the past all u like, but to be the best u have bet the best, and sorry yesteryears Aus would cream you's, so put a pin in that inflated head of urs. that is all...

  • jayray999 on December 9, 2010, 22:34 GMT

    @popcorn: "One swallow doth not a summer make"

    But one Whooper Swan(n) does. Go England!

  • bumsonseats on December 9, 2010, 18:51 GMT

    about 3 years ago it as reported in the Australian press that the Aussie sporting public loved a good scrap and wanted ashes series to be more competitive. well England have picked up their game and the plain truth is you dont. and to say perth would suit more Australia than Englands 2 at 6ft 7" and 1 at 6 ft 3" you wish. dpk

  • dummy4fb on December 9, 2010, 18:44 GMT

    @marcio Spoken like a true aussie. Though I like your enthusiasm, Australia is going to lose even in Perth. England certainly is a far more balanced side than Australia now and more importantly they are performing to their potential. On the contrary, Australia is looking completely clueless, making changes in every game and for some weird reason playing North consistently even if he is a proven failure. No quality spinner is also another headache.CA must appoint Warne as a bowling mentor of Australia and give him the responsibility to nurture young talents. best of luck to both teams!

  • Morgasm on December 9, 2010, 14:34 GMT

    @Popcorn have you not noticed how every article regarding England speaks of their worry of complacency and how they are being very cautious about getting ahead of themselves. Nobody is bragging.

  • 5wombats on December 9, 2010, 14:16 GMT

    @popcorn. You are a gem. England supporters during the dark days of 1989, 1993, 2002, 2006, (etc) never were brave enough, once the Aussies had whacked us out of sight in the 1st and/or 2nd Tests of those series to say what you say; "one swallow....". The nature of those defeats at the hands of the old enemy were such that no-one in their right minds would say of the Aussies; "one swallow...." etc. Reality check - Aus got whacked out of sight at Adelaide. Read the scoreboard and get real. It wasn't as if you weren't warned - didn't you notice that Aus failed to put away a desperately weak Pakistan side in bowler friendly conditions in England? Didn't you notice how good England were in South Africa? You don't seem to be noticing, or are unable to accept the reality of Aus predicament; calling for Warne to come out of retirement!!!? Phew! that's desperation. After the first swallow - there are always many more.

  • Marcio on December 9, 2010, 14:10 GMT

    LOL, I see I successfully stirred up a few of the old enemy! The truth is that many English players are packing way above their weight, while many Aussies are under performing dramatically. That gap will inevitably begin to collapse as the series progresses. That's all I'm saying. You can't play "the perfect game" every time.

  • dummy4fb on December 9, 2010, 13:04 GMT

    @popcorn, did you read that in your pop up book of philosophy? would you care to point out where andy flower said the series was over? would you care to point out where he said we can take our foot off the aussie throat? he is the very essence of professionalism at the moment. wanting his players to do more, with every game. we will continue to push on, and let the oppo worry about their game. because if we do all that we can do, and get beat, we will have been beaten by a better team, take it graciously, and come back and try again, even harder. however, he is simply stating that rather than resting on our laurels, we need to push even harder in the next game. perhaps if the aussies had a coach of such perception and eye for detail, they wouldnt be the complete dogs breakfast that they are at the moment.

  • dummy4fb on December 9, 2010, 12:26 GMT

    I think it is the mental game, the pressure is telling on the Aussies, not that they are not good players but the England have stronger metal make up.. Aussies need to bring back warne, lee, tait, nannes and mcdonald whoever of these is fitttt, if they want to win....

  • popcorn on December 9, 2010, 12:01 GMT

    "One swallow doth not a summer make".How many times must the Pommies be told this?

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