England v South Africa, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley July 31, 2012

Flower hopes Taylor solves No. 6 issue


Andy Flower, the England team director, hopes James Taylor can take ownership of England's problematic No. 6 position but has said that Ravi Bopara will be considered for future selection when his personal situation is resolved.

Bopara, who returned to the side for the first time in a year at The Oval, was inked in for the second Test against South Africa at Headingley, despite a lean comeback match: he made 0 and 22 in the crushing innings defeat before informing the management that he would not be available. His withdrawal means England are set to use their fifth No. 6 of the year as the middle-order spot, which has not been consistently filled since Paul Collingwood's retirement, continues to cause headaches.

Eoin Morgan was the first to be given the role and had a sustained run through last summer and the early part of 2012 until paying the price for a poor series against Pakistan. Matt Prior then moved up the order in Sri Lanka, with Samit Patel playing an allrounder's role at No. 7, before Jonny Bairstow was debuted against West Indies where he struggled.

That laid out a clear route for Bopara to finally return to a position that would have been his earlier in the year but for injury but now another obstacle has been put in his way meaning a second debutant of the season in the role. It has also meant another tricky Test build-up for Flower to manage, following the issues revolving around Kevin Pietersen in the days leading towards The Oval.

"It's disappointing for him obviously but it opens the door for another player who has come through the academy system and worked really hard over the years to get his chance," Flower said. "I certainly hope James can make six his spot for a while.

"I don't know him that well. We've had him down for the odd net and he's worked with Graham Gooch. I watched him play against Sri Lanka at Derby last year. He looks like a young man that understands his game pretty well and he knows how to score runs. We don't know how he'll do but we wish him well and hope he has a wonderful international career. It doesn't close the door on Ravi Bopara."

Flower all-but confirmed that Taylor will debut at No. 6 by saying that it was "unlikely" England would employ a five-man bowling attack despite only taking two wickets in 189 overs at The Oval. However, he did not completely dismiss the idea of an all-pace attack if the Headingley pitch looked particularly lively - although that is a trap England have fallen into before at Leeds. "An all seam attack is an option for us," he said. "But we haven't done that for a long time."

It would be a major departure from type if England were to leave out Graeme Swann even though the offspinner went wicketless in 52 overs against South Africa, has taken just six Test wickets at 72.16 this season and is carrying a long-term elbow problem. Flower said Swann's elbow was "Okay... He has a chronic problem but it's improving."

Some of England's players, especially Swann and James Anderson, have been reasonably candid in the days following the defeat at The Oval about how the team have struggled to adapt to their No. 1 ranking, which will slip away if they lose this series. Swann went as far as to call England's recent record as "dismal" but, perhaps unsurprisingly, Flower did not quite agree.

"I wouldn't describe our results as being dismal," he said. "I think you have to look a little deeper than that. The series in the UAE was in different conditions and we struggled against their two spinners. You can't compare that to the first Test against South Africa.

"South Africa played very good cricket, we played some good cricket in parts but we didn't capitalise on a great platform in the first innings. On a pitch like that you need a significant score. South Africa bowled well that second morning and that was where the momentum of that game changed."

And, as even with the measured Flower, he tried to keep the situation in perspective. "Sometimes you are outplayed, regardless of your attempts at dismissal or strategy implemented, so you have to give credit to the opposition," he said. "It would be very hard for me to argue our strategies were successful. But in international sport you'll have huge ups and downs, and our make-up has to deal with those ups and downs."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on August 2, 2012, 7:55 GMT

    @m1991vicky on (August 01 2012, 15:01 PM GMT) Indeed but by the same token we have been told by a number of Indian fans that last year we beat an ageing batting line up etc. So are Sachin , Gambhir , Sehwag and VVS growing younger now?

  • John on August 2, 2012, 7:54 GMT

    @R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (August 01 2012, 11:48 AM GMT) Swann knows they are going 6/1/4 so wouldn't want to be seen as going against the selectors even if he thinks differently himself

  • John on August 2, 2012, 7:54 GMT

    @reality_check27 on (August 01 2012, 15:20 PM GMT) Maybe you should get your facts right before asking Cricinfo to publish your post. England beat both Pak and SL away in the last decade

  • John on August 2, 2012, 7:51 GMT

    @ R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (August 01 2012, 18:27 PM GMT) With 5/1/5 with similar bowling conditions for each side I'd have it as close as 50/50. With 6/1/4 , I'd say SA are strong favourites

  • John on August 2, 2012, 7:48 GMT

    @iphone1 on (August 02 2012, 03:28) If you're a regular on here you generally realise who supports who after a while

  • Vinu on August 2, 2012, 3:28 GMT

    What makes ppl think maddy20 is an Indian fan? His post here does not give that impression. Maybe from previous jousting with other readers?? However I am really tired of my fellow countrymen bringing up India in all forums/ available cyber space. Our fans (some of them) still cannot digest last year's defeat. Anyways, I am looking forward to a nice test match. It will be nice to see a fierce battle, on the field of course !!!!!!!!!!!! But going by what happened last match, I guess I am biased with my prediction. SA to win !!!!

  • Nicholas on August 1, 2012, 18:27 GMT

    @JG2704 (post on August 01 2012, 12:25 PM GMT): Yup, totally agree. Ahhh don't remind me of Simon Jones... what a great bowler when he was fit! Fantastic during that 2005 series. If only we had him 100% fit in the team now! Predictions for second game?

  • Balaji on August 1, 2012, 17:19 GMT

    Let us see how he does. Thing is, in the last few years, the England batting order has been pretty much a closed shop, with only 2 guys Trott and Morgan breaking in and Morgan has lost his place in the team. So England could do with some new blood. Also England needs to start thinking beyond Strauss, clearly he has been struggling for some time. The West Indies series gave him breathing space, but unless he does something in the next 2 tests, England should start looking beyond. As for the Headingley wicket, if it is a seamer's paradise, South Africa have the firepower to sting England. Let us watch.

  • Steve on August 1, 2012, 16:37 GMT

    Maddy20 seems to be unaware the God (that great umpire in the sky) is of an Englishman. As the supreme being he knows that losing is just part of the game. He knows that there's no disgrace in losing to a better side. I also think he's sick and tired of every cricket forum being about India! That's probably why he arranged a power cut in that country to keep all those computers/fanatics silent! Now THAT is food for thought....... :~)

  • Dummy4 on August 1, 2012, 14:11 GMT

    Following is series record between India Vs England for last ten years: India in England 2002 Drawn 1-1 (3) England in India 2005/06 Drawn 1-1 (3) India in England 2007 India 1-0 (3) England in India 2008/09 India 1-0 (2) India in England 2011 Eng 4-0 (4 - the famous bashing) The above results show , overall England lead 5-4 but India has won series both in India and in England. So India are not necessarily flat track bullies while English do seem to struggle in winning in India. Also England are still to visit India to complete the cycle. So before we glorify either India or England lets wait till England come to India.

    Comparison in ODIs should not be done as India are not only way better than England but also India has one ODI world cup in last ten years. The statistics are (India's results first): Neutral venues 2-0 (1 game tied), in India 15-1 (two drubbings of 5-0 and one of 5-1), in England 4-7 (including the last 3-0 drubbing). Results from 1st August 2002

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