England's rise to Test No. 1 August 14, 2011

Short-term goals will keep England at top - Flower


Andy Flower says that England will seek to defend their new status as the world's No. 1 Test side by attacking a series of short-term goals, starting with the winter tours of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as they set about reassessing their priorities in the wake of a crushing innings-and-242-run triumph against India at Edgbaston on Saturday.

That performance, which was built on the back of Alastair Cook's career-best 294, took England to an unassailable 3-0 series lead with just the Oval Test to come later this week, and ensured that, in little more than two years since the squad was torn apart by the falling-out between the then-captain and coach, Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores, England have surged to the top of the world Test rankings.

Flower, however, is already looking to the future as he plots a means to turn England's spell at the top into something longer lasting. Writing in his Daily Telegraph column, Shane Warne conceded that the current England team has the look and feel of long-term champions, with big-match temperaments in every position from 1 to 11.

Such heightened new expectations will be tough for Flower's men to live up to, but he believes that two challenges in particular - the forthcoming challenge in the subcontinent, and the inaugural World Test Championship in 2013 - will provide all the focus his players need to ensure their ranking looks after itself.

"I always think it is very dangerous to try to hold on to what you have got," Flower told reporters after the Edgbaston Test. "We used that goal - to be No1 - as a motivational tool that drove us in training and in matches. Now that we have achieved that, what [Andrew] Strauss and I don't want to do is hang on to No. 1 status. That's not a very exciting way to go about our business. We are going to have to reset our goals.

"This winter we go to play against two countries that the last time England toured those countries, we lost. We want to go away and play Pakistan and Sri Lanka away from home and win those series. Ignoring the ranking, those series will have their own importance.

"We've also got the World Test Championship for the first time in 2013 and that's in our own country. That is certainly something we are striving for - we have to be in the top four to get into the semi- finals of it and we are going to be working hard between now and then to ensure we are a strong unit ready for that semi-final."

It was a tour of Pakistan that ended England's last comparable run of sustained form six years ago, when the 2005 Ashes winners were stunned by an unlikely defeat in Multan then crushed by an innings in Lahore. The squad never recovered its momentum after their run of six consecutive series wins had been ended, and Flower is wary that a similar fate can still await this team if they allow their guard to drop.

"Now we are ranked No.1, people will be very hungry to knock us off that perch. There is no doubt about that," said Flower. "It is one thing being good for a short period of time - but having a side that delivers some special results and has some special times together that they will remember for the rest of their lives, that will be a much better thing to look back on than a few victories here and there."

To that end, Flower heaped praise on his Test captain, Strauss, whom he lauded as a "an outstanding leader and a special man". The pair bonded in the Caribbean during England's tour in the spring of 2009, where a disastrous collapse to 51 all out in the first Test in Sabina Park gave both men the licence they needed to mould the team in their own driven images. "The players, after being asked to embrace responsibility, have delivered," he said. "Strauss asked that of them when he took over the captaincy a couple of years ago, and they are repaying him."

At the age of 34, Strauss may not have many more series left at the helm, and so the prospect of taking part in the Ashes double-header in 2013-14 could prove to be a very personal motivation for the final stage of his career. However, his deputy, Cook, has enhanced his credentials as a leader, both through the sheer weight of his batting performances, and latterly through his impressive series win over Sri Lanka in the ODIs. The succession, it would appear, is in safe hands, which lends weight to the perception that England could yet establish a dynasty to rival those of West Indies and Australia in the past 30 years.

Flower, however, does not want to address such grandiose ambitions, and prefers to keep his goals closer to home. "That isn't a very clear target as yet," he said. "I like goals to be fairly specific. I don't think we can compare ourselves to those sides, to be quite honest. They dominated world cricket for lengthy periods. We have been playing well for a little while now but only for a short time in cricketing history terms.

"Who knows what the future holds though? That is going to be up to us."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Venugopal on August 17, 2011, 10:06 GMT

    This England is feeling that they are invincible etc. Even KP the other day was speaking about having killer instinct etc. This already shows their arrogance.

    I dont see them going too far. Broad is in good form and all it takes is an injury and u easily loose the rythm.I beleive BUT the key point behind their victory is that they won so far against a very week indian bowling attack. The indian bowling didnt put any pressure on their batting and that inturn relieved the pressure on the bowlers to be succesuful and put pressure on indian batsman to fail. Note that Eng have a very good record of crumbling under pressure.

    The real test comes when they play againt strong bowling attacks such as SA. and also on sub-continent. The mighty Australlia that it was had to succumb to indian team on Indian Soil.

    Its all too early to say ENG will be No.1 for a while. They are good on their soil that to be accepted. note that SA can easily de-throne them very soon with Gary at the helm.

  • Gary on August 17, 2011, 9:40 GMT

    you lot make me laugh.

    SA have had ample chance to be No1 but have been unable to achieve it.

    England are number 1 because they are the best test team on the planet at this time. They are so far ahead of a declining indian side that it is frightening.

    We will see how you feel when England beat both Pak and SL this winter. Being No1 feels gooood...............

  • Dummy4 on August 17, 2011, 8:10 GMT

    @terrifyingwarriors if SA are so good then why did they not win their home series against either India or England? I agree that they are the other contenders but saying they would dominate England does not ring true because when we last played in SA they drew the tests and lost the ODI's. Hardly dominating. Still SA can get to number 1 if they win well against SL and AUS as England wont be playing until the winter. It would be a real shame for England to lose the No.1 spot without even the chance to defend it!

  • Rajiv on August 17, 2011, 5:20 GMT

    There's No doubt England has performed extraordinarily well in this series thus far. But when it comes to being World no.1, I don't think England can be as threatening as they can be in there home grounds. The real No.1 test team is 'SA', they have every reason to be one. Good Bowling. Good batting order and extraordinary fielding and above all 'Passion'. And of course can dominate any given opponents away from home. Talking of India! I reckon they lost because they were very over confident and arrogant after winning the World cup. They are very Good side too and I expect them to bounce back hard at Australians late this year. South Africa will dominate this England. BTW am an Indian.

  • Peter on August 17, 2011, 5:16 GMT

    South Africa has a chance to claim #1 as they have few points to defend int he next 6 months, but thereafter, maximum points will need to be defended as England are still losing next to nothing for the next 15 to 18 months. After the Sth Afica series, Australia can only go up with very few points ot be dropped off. The teams that will go into a big decline willl be India & SL if they lose or draw series, although India have the most to lose. SO short term goals is the way to go for England. Some things are out of their hands, but hwat they can control they should target.

  • Anthony on August 17, 2011, 2:49 GMT

    South Africa reaching No 1 is not such a long shot and is entirely in their hands. Even if England win at The Oval this week, SA would only need to beat Australia 1-0 or 2-0 in their 2 match home series in November and then beat Sri Lanka 3-0 at home in Dec/Jan to overtake England who have no more fixtures until Paklstan later in January. If England fail to beat India this week then 1-0 and 2-0 series wins would be sufficient.

  • Hira on August 16, 2011, 19:55 GMT

    England wont do well in the subcontinent simply because they are not very good at playing spin. As for their bowlers who have all suddenly become famous bowling and doing well against a crisis indian side, and bowling on bowler friendly conditions, its inevitable in the near future, they and all english fans will realise they're just a normal team like any other. They will struggle against india in the ODI series in october in india like they did last time. The rankings will just continue to go up and down every now and again.

  • Mujtaba on August 16, 2011, 19:34 GMT

    Andy Flower rightfully deserves a lot of credit for England's impressive performances over the last two years. This group has redefined the term, "team work", and everyone from top to bottom is a potential match-winner. India's tenure at the top was always going to be short-lived because they lack an all-around unit. England's title defence starts now and I am eagerly awaiting the away series against Pakistan (in UAE) and the home series against SA next summer.

  • Chris on August 16, 2011, 15:04 GMT

    Sunglassesron: you make a good point but I still think Morgan is not up to seaming wickets at Test level - Taylor is probably a better bet, Morgan a good squad player. Blondblackberry: spin is not alien to the English team - issue will come more with Sri Lanka than India or Pak as the latter two don't have any decent spinners. If England win in Sri this winter, it will be point proven as to whether they are true world champions. Let us also not forget who is ranked as the world's best spinner - G Swann!

  • Jason on August 16, 2011, 14:58 GMT

    I'd agree that SA at the moment are the only real contenders, but they generally have poor home form while being excellent away from home, and thats why, unfairly I'll admit, they get the tag of chokers. I'm looking forward to next years series in the UK, it should be a good and hardly fought series.

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