Eng v NZ, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 5th day May 28, 2013

Cook, Flower claim tactics 'vindicated'

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Alastair Cook and Andy Flower insisted their tactics had been "vindicated" after England won the second Test against New Zealand by 247 runs to clinch a 2-0 series victory.

While Cook admitted he endured some nervous moments waiting for the rain to clear, he also defended his decision not to enforce the follow-on and to delay his declaration until after lunch on day four. By then England had a lead of 467 and meteorologists were warning that the fifth day could be severely curtailed by rain.

So it proved, too, with only 45 minutes possible before lunch and play not resuming until 3pm. But it was long enough for England to claim the final four wickets they required to secure victory.

"The result definitely vindicates the decision," Cook said. "There is absolutely no doubt about that at all. To win by 250 runs is a good win and in just over three days cricket effectively, it is an outstanding performance. You are judged as a captain on results. In this game we have won by 250 runs.

"I would not say it was a sleepless night but we were praying for an opportunity to get enough time to go out there and win the game. Clearly, I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was look out the window. We knew rain was about but we thought there would be a few windows of opportunity."

While there was much to celebrate for England - the form and fitness of Graeme Swann, the hostility of Steven Finn and the batting of Joe Root and Cook - one or two areas of concern remain.

The form of Nick Compton, 39 runs in four innings this series, was a disappointment and debate over his position will continue. With Kevin Pietersen back in training and likely to return to the middle order for the Ashes, moving Root to open is one option that is sure to be discussed in the coming weeks.

Neither Cook nor Flower would commit to Compton's selection for the Ashes, but Cook did admit that changing such "an important position" ahead of such high-profile games would constitute "a risk".

"He's struggled in these few Tests, certainly," Flower added. "The Ashes is quite a long way away. Let's allow the dust to settle on this series. Then we'll chat about the line-up and the conditions and the opposition.

"He's got to go away, get back into form and score some heavy runs for Somerset. He goes back into a couple of one-day games. Hopefully the one-day games will be good for him. He can go out and enjoy hitting the ball. That will be the catalyst for him going into the first-class game feeling confident."

"He's been really dedicated and disciplined in his rehabilitation and he seems in better physical condition than he has been for a while"
Andy Flower on Graeme Swann

Flower, in particular, appeared to take exception to the line of questioning from some media following the game. Talking to the BBC, he said: "I thought it was a very good performance by our side. We won by over 200 runs. Cook scored another hundred. He has 25 Test hundreds; more than Viv Richards or Greg Chappell. Swann is back in form and his elbow has come through surgery recently. The two young Yorkshire guys have had a great game. Finn on a flat deck has bowled outstandingly well. Those are all things that I'd prefer to focus on than some of the negative things you mention."

But both Cook and Flower admitted there were some areas where England could have performed a little better. While Cook referred to criticism of Trott's sedate progress on the third evening, 11 in 69 balls despite England beginning their second innings with a lead of 180, as "nit-picking", Flower accepted that "he could have been more urgent".

"We had a great example of running between the wickets and the right sort of balance between defence and attack and urgency from the two young Yorkshire guys in the first innings," Flower said. "They batted beautifully. Trott could have learned a little from those two. But the following morning he put us in a great position to win the game."

Flower and Cook justified the decision not to enforce the follow-on, believing the wicket would only deteriorate as the match progressed. "We chose to bat again and get well ahead of them," Flower agreed. "We thought we would have enough time on a wearing pitch to take the last 10 wickets and that's how it proved."

The start of the final day was noticeable for Flower remonstrating with the groundstaff to remove the covers more quickly.

"I shouldn't be out there doing the officials' job," Flower said. "It wasn't raining so I'm not sure why the covers weren't being removed. I don't understand why it took so long to get the game started, regardless of the position that we were in. The officials have a responsibility to get the game going when conditions suit and it wasn't raining. The lack of activity was baffling."

But in general, Flower was in the mood to celebrate the encouraging performances of Swann and the two young local batsmen, Root and Jonny Bairstow.

"Swann bowled superbly in the first innings; the ball came out of his hand absolutely beautifully," Flower said. "I didn't actually think he bowled as well in the second innings. I don't think he was quite comfortable with the ball. But he still took 6 for 90 and turned the match our way. I'm very encouraged by the way he's bowling and very happy for him that his elbow has come through surgery as well as it has. He's been really dedicated and disciplined in the way he's rehabilitated his elbow and he seems in better physical condition than he has been for a while.

"Root looks an excellent cricketer. His decision making in the middle; his balance has been excellent so far. It was great to see him get a hundred on his home ground and it was nice to see the enthusiasm and passion the Yorkshire supporters showed Joe.

"It was also great to see Bairstow bat with him. I know how happy Jonny was for Joe to get that 100, which was really nice to see. They are both good young men. Very different characters. But hopefully they will both have very successful England careers."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • TenDonebyaShooter on May 31, 2013, 18:53 GMT

    @SirViv1973: I stand by the point that in terms of general relative quality, the bowling attacks faced in test cricket on the one hand by Cook and Flintoff, and on the other by Richards, Chapple, Flower and Atherton, form a stark contrast. In the light of this comparison, Cook might as well be making his runs against a bowling attack comprised of Neil Wagner, Bruce Wagner, Robert Wagner and Richard Wagner. If one considered the matter sincerely, on a hart-to-hart basis, whereas Cook's propensity to ring up runs seems as predictable as the turning of a cycle, in the days when fearsome fast bowlers like Lillee, Marshall and Ambrose tore in against none-too-competent tailenders, it often seemed to be a case of "Kill the rabbit, Kill the rabbit ...", or at least an imminent collapse of a nature apocalyptic, now.

  • igorolman on May 30, 2013, 17:36 GMT

    No problems with not enforcing the follow-on, I would have but it's a judgement call. However, yes Trott plodded even by his standards on day 3 and I'd have pulled out about half an hour before lunch on day 4 (and if Trott had batted even normally that would already have been more than the world record 418) and had 4 or 5 overs at a trembling Kiwi batting order. I appreciate you don't play based on the forecast - and they would have been crucified for declaring at 350 ahead and then watching horror-stricken as NZ got the runs on a dry day 5 - but you have to take it into consideration and it looked like Cook and Flower were assuming the rain would stay off.

    And Flower is spot on about one thing: he shouldn't be doing the officials' job. I hope he got a rap on the knuckles or a traditional Yorkshire greeting for that.

  • dummy4fb on May 30, 2013, 16:47 GMT

    NZ should be playing the mid ranked teams a lot more - Sri Lanka, West Indies, India, Australia and the like.

  • SirViv1973 on May 30, 2013, 11:40 GMT

    @mustakin Shuvo, and all the other posters saying NZL should play more against Bang & Zim. No they shouldn't! the last time they played Zim they bowled them out twice in one day! and Bang recently lost a test to the same Zim team. How are NZL going to improve playing regularly against teams who are inferior in pretty much every department? If you look at this as a 5 match series NZL we competitive right up until the 4th day of the 4th Test, until Eng's extra quality was just too much for them. They were only beaten 1 nil at home against SAF last year and a few months before that drew in Aus. Yes their batting is an issue at the moment but they will improve if they are regularly playing against the better teams. I would be interested to see how a similar 5 match series (2 in oz 3 in NZL) would go.

  • jmcilhinney on May 30, 2013, 10:20 GMT

    I've banged on about Cook's tactics in this game because I feel very strongly about it but, as I've said before, England did play well and deserved their victory. Most boxes appear to be ticked at the moment, although you'd hope and expect Australia to provide a sterner test all around than NZ, who just couldn't maintain the intensity they managed at home. Compton is obviously the biggest question mark at the moment and it will be interesting to see which way the selectors go. People are talking about not putting extra pressure on Root by asking him to open but, seriously, the guy is an opening batsmen by trade. How many openers actually start out playing for their country in the middle order? Some, but very few. Why do we think that Root needs coddling more than others, especially when his performance seems to suggest that he needs it less. I guess there's fear his very good run may come to an end but we should have some faith... if Compton doesn't shape up.

  • jmcilhinney on May 30, 2013, 0:09 GMT

    @RandyUK on (May 29, 2013, 13:03 GMT), fortunately, we won't have to rely on captaincy to be the deciding factor in our upcoming wins over Australia.

  • jmcilhinney on May 30, 2013, 0:07 GMT

    @Vishnu27 on (May 29, 2013, 15:40 GMT), presumably the reference is to the ODI series played in England, not an Ashes Test series.

  • jmcilhinney on May 30, 2013, 0:06 GMT

    @TallHawk on (May 29, 2013, 16:00 GMT), you may be right but I feel that, if Cook & Flower were to acknowledge publicly that they may have erred then it probably would have blown over quickly, because we would assume, or at least hope, that they would endeavour not to make the same mistake again. By their saying that the result vindicates their decisions suggests to me that, in similar circumstances, they would do the same thing again in the future and, on that occasion, we may not be so lucky with the weather and the chance of a win may be washed away.

  • jmcilhinney on May 30, 2013, 0:00 GMT

    @Behice Jenkinson on (May 29, 2013, 18:34 GMT), let's be realistic. Yes, Trott is not known as a quick scorer but that early second innings was ridiculous. England were criticised somewhat for slow scoring in the first innings at Lords and there Trott was 31 after facing 69 balls. In the second innings at Lords he had 26 after 69. In the first innings here he only faced 60 balls but made 28. The second innings at Headingly was the one time where England should have specifically been looking to score quickly and yet Trott finished day 3 with 11 off 69 and looked more like he wasn't trying to score than, like Compton, wasn't able to. I'm not quite sure what Cook's think was but he seemed to slow down with Trott at the crease too. Admittedly, the bowling did improve after his early onslaught but, with wickets in hand and rain on the way, that careful approach just didn't seem justified. We don't expect Trott to be a Lamborghini but a decent family sedan would be nice.

  • jmcilhinney on May 29, 2013, 23:48 GMT

    @hhillbumper on (May 29, 2013, 18:17 GMT), if you're happy with beating the #8 ranked team at home then fair enough, but some of us aspire for the team to be able to beat anyone, anywhere.