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September 26, 2009
England team director Andy Flower has said he would not have called back Angelo Mathews had be been in Andrew Strauss's position. Strauss said his decision to recall Mathews after he had been run out last night was influenced in part by the fallout from a similar incident in England last summer, but Flower did not share the sentiment.
"I would definitely have not recalled him," he said, "But Strauss is a good man and I trust him completely. He made his decision and I back him on that, I just wouldn't have done it myself. I would have sent the batsman on his way. He ran into the bowler. Simple deal."
England's six-wicket win over Sri Lanka has opened up Group B. Flower, despite the turnaround in fortunes, said England were "huge underdogs" when stacked up against the hosts and No. 2 side South Africa. "Everyone realises that. It doesn't mean we can't win the game - we were underdogs going into the game against Sri Lanka, we were underdogs going into the Ashes series - but we will have to be right on top of our game to do so."
England's top order failed to click but the contribution of the next three batsmen, contrasting as they were, paved the way for a defiant victory. Paul Collingwood gave the chase the desired momentum with a brisk 46, taking the attack back to Sri Lanka, Owais Shah held up one end with a patient 44, and Eoin Morgan meshed aggression with stability to seal the deal. Bopara has been woefully short of confidence and one of had to make way for Shah's move up to No. 3 to enable England to field an extra seamer. The task of telling the struggling batsman he was not part of England's plans came to Flower, his former Essex team-mate.
"The difficulty in a situation like that is it does affect someone's career," said Flower. "So it is an important decision but, to be honest, in the context of balancing our side and what we needed for that game, it wasn't that difficult a decision. He has had a lot of chances, hasn't taken the chance, so he lost out. Whether he gets that chance again in this tournament, I don't know."
Bopara has suffered a rough time since the Ashes began. He managed 105 runs in seven innings before being dropped for the fifth Test, and followed up with 167 runs from seven ODIs against Australia, at an average of 23.86 without a fifty, since returning to the top of the order for the limited-overs campaign. Bopara may retains the faith of his captain, Strauss, but Flower warned that he needed to do some serious soul-searching to prove his international credentials.
"He's very talented, and he's a good friend of mine, actually, but the polishing has to be done by himself," said Flower. "We have invested a lot in Ravi Bopara - a lot of time and opportunity. He's a hard worker, there's no doubt about it, he works very hard but results on the park are what count and in his job it is runs."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Plays of the Day from second ODI between South Africa and Pakistan, in Port Elizabeth
Plays of the Day from the third ODI between India and West Indies, in Kanpur