England in New Zealand 2012-13

Flower wants better tour starts

Andrew McGlashan in Dunedin

March 11, 2013

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Andy Flower, England's Test coach, speaks to the media in Dunedin, England tour of New Zealand 2012-13, Dunedin, March 11, 2013
Andy Flower is keen to address England's problem of starting an overseas Test series poorly © Getty Images
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England overseas: shall we skip the first Test?

Andy Flower, the England Test coach, has said he will take a look at his role in the side's continued problems with starting overseas Test series poorly and suggested that he will implement changes for future tours.

England fought back to save the opening match against New Zealand, in Dunedin, but the performance on the second day - being bowled out for 167 and watching the home side reach 131 without loss - was probably their worst start to a Test under Flower.

"If you are asking about a trend, that is certainly something that I should be addressing myself," he said before the team travelled to Wellington. "I have some ideas on rejigging a couple of things in our preparation, in our management team firstly, and we'll see if we can do something about it.

"We always encourage our players to be honest with themselves, and each other. So then we've got to do the same. The coaches have to do that, and I'm the first guy that has to do it."

Since 2004-05, England have only beaten Bangladesh in an opening Test in 2010. Of the away 14 series since they won at Port Elizabeth under Michael Vaughan's captaincy (incidentally having prepared by being hammered by South Africa A), nine have started with a defeat and only in one, against India in Nagpur in 2006, did England take control of a match for any considerable time.

The lack of a sustained warm-up period is often cited as a key reason. Flower has gone to great lengths to ensure the team have high-quality preparation leading into a series, but on this tour that was restricted to one four-day game - albeit against a strong New Zealand XI side. For the Ashes later this year, England will repeat the 2010-11 schedule of three first-class warm-ups before Brisbane.

Flower, obviously, has no control over the strength of opposition for warm-ups and some of the matches during the early stages of the India were of debatable quality, although India's plan to hide top-class spin did not stop them from losing the series. However, he does not believe the poor start in Dunedin can be purely put down to not having more games before the series.

"The way we started this tour, principally in that first innings, has nothing to do with people not having enough cricket," he said. "We've had a reasonable amount of preparation time, and enough to get ready for that first Test. So that is not the reason why we under-performed.

"Am I happy with the preparation for this series? Well, I'm not happy in that we lost the four-day game - we go into those games trying to win them," Flower said. "So that is not a habit we want to keep. We transferred some of the sloppiness that we showed in that four-day game into the Test match."

England finally kicked into gear on the fourth day as they faced a deficit of 293. Alastair Cook and Nick Compton added 231 before further half-centuries from Steven Finn, on his first occasion as the nightwatchman, and Jonathan Trott helped keep New Zealand at bay, although a wobble either side of tea kept the day alive. "We had a long time to bat and, even on flat pitches when you are batting under that type of pressure where a mistake might cost the match, I thought they did an outstanding job," Flower said.

For Compton, though, it was still too early for any assurances over the Ashes with Flower taking a similarly guarded tone to his views on Joe Root. "It was great to see him get the big score he's been after. There are no guarantees about the future for any of us, and the Ashes is still a little way away. So let's just take it one step at a time."

He also gave a strong hint that he does not want Cook to always be the man to have set the tone at the top of the order after the captain scored his 24th Test hundred. "He's handled the captaincy very well, and has also led from the front with the bat. We need some of our other top-order batsmen to do the same."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by vivek_khyati on (March 13, 2013, 19:18 GMT)

england should play the second test first ;)

Posted by zoot on (March 12, 2013, 22:03 GMT)

The poor starts against India and Pakistan were because they played with one spinner instead of two. The bad start here was a mixture of rustiness with the players who just came in for the test series and complacency. It's not an issue which cannot be sorted.

Posted by mikey76 on (March 12, 2013, 18:37 GMT)

The England batting in the first innings was just an abberration, not a deep seated technical problem like the Australians are wrestling with. I'm sure come Wellington the top order will fire. To me the bowling and slip catching are more of an issue. Finn was very dissapointing and Panesar looks rusty, lets hope Broad continues his upward curve and that the slip cordon comes up to scratch.

Posted by Selassie-I on (March 12, 2013, 16:48 GMT)

Jonsey - amazing how you're on here commenting but don't seem to be bothered about the complete disarray your own team is in! And going by the fact that we've won our last 2 encounters, if we're poor then you're abysmal.

Posted by landl47 on (March 12, 2013, 13:04 GMT)

I think the problem is fairly easy to identify, but as usual understanding what it is and eliminating it are two very different issues. If you look at the shot selection of the England batsmen in the 1st NZ test, most of them got out to over-aggressive strokes. England seems to go in to test series with the mindset that they need to dominate the opposition and dominating means scoring fast. On the whole (KP being the obvious exception) this England side isn't that kind of team; they do best when they grind and occupy the crease for a long time. Once they have tired the opposing bowlers out, they can score more freely.

Flower must work with them on strategies for keeping their heads down for longer, such as leaving the ball, not trying to drive on the up, playing more dead bat shots and so on. Extending their time at the crease should be the goal, be there and the runs will come.

In fact, take the second innings of the tests against NZ, India and Aus and make it the first innings.

Posted by SDHM on (March 12, 2013, 10:47 GMT)

@davidpk - still don't think the pitch being under covers for 24 hours contributed much to England's batting display in that first innings. Aside from KP, you can hardly say any of the batsmen got an unplayable delivery, can you? It was juts a shocker of a batting performance in the face of some disciplined bowling.

Posted by Gokumdas on (March 12, 2013, 8:28 GMT)

I think a good idea would be to ask the players to write three things they could do to improve their overseas starts and submit it to the coach before play of the next test match....

Posted by   on (March 11, 2013, 21:23 GMT)

More first class cricket before the Test series is the ONLY way to ensure a decent.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (March 11, 2013, 16:58 GMT)

Excellent, spot-on answers from Flower there. His views on Compton and Root for example are perfect: "one-step-at-a-time!" I haven't seen or heard any of the England players or managers screaming that that's the team for e.g. the Ashes set in stone now; only certain posters on this forum are doing that and then other posters come along and claim that that's England's view in general. Not so...

Posted by Munkeymomo on (March 11, 2013, 14:38 GMT)

@TheDoctor394: In the last Ashes series England dominated Australia in the first test, but that was after a very poor first innings. That's improvement. 2005 & 06/07 - lost. 09 - Scraped a draw. 10/11 - Only struggled first innings.

If this trend continues, we will see England fail in the first session in the summer series and then the first hour in Australia. Extrapolation people.

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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