The Ashes 2013-14

'England can fight back' - Flower

ESPNcricinfo staff

December 10, 2013

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'England can fight back' - Flower

Andy Flower has said he believes England can fight back against Australia, despite heavy defeats in the first two Tests. England travel to Perth, where the third Test will begin on Friday, trailing 2-0 in the series and in imminent danger of losing the Ashes and Flower, the team director, said his players would have to improve their level of performance.

England have never come from two behind to win an Ashes series and, although a draw would be enough for them to retain the urn, their record at the WACA does not inspire confidence, with one Test victory in 12 visits. Flower, however, questioned the suggestion that Australia's desire has so far been greater than England's.

"I know that we can fight back into the series, absolutely," Flower said. "We have a history of playing competitive cricket and I know we have a mixture of experienced and young players, but a lot of these players have done some amazing things for England in the recent past, and we are going to have to fight for that to happen again.

"Quite frankly, usually in sporting contest when there are losses, especially heavy losses, one of the first areas people look at is lack of fight or the other side wanted it more. That's quite a simplistic view. We've been outplayed in these two Tests, very obviously, and the Australians have outplayed us in all three facets. We haven't been skilful enough for long enough to get into better positions in the matches. That's the crux there."

'The time for reflection is not now'

  • Flower on losing the first two Tests: The scale of defeats is concerning. It's certainly knocked our confidence a little, I think that's fair to say.
  • Flower on Cook: He is a strong young man and he wouldn't have been able to have done what he's done with the bat in his career if he didn't have that strength. That strength will come through, I've got no doubt about that. He's a good man.
  • Flower on the seamers: Finn is working through a few aspects of his bowling. I wouldn't say Finn is at his best at the moment. He's not at his best but I think he's actually just starting to turn things around. But it is good to have Bresnan back as an option and obviously we have got Tremlett and Rankin as options as well and their height and bounce could be assets that we could use in Perth. But let's have a look at the pitch first.
  • Flower on his own position: I think the first port of call for all of us is to look at what we personally can do better. So I examine myself and how I lead. I am very much responsible for the results of the England cricket side. [But] the time for reflection is not now. We go to Perth and both sides start on nought for nought, and my job is to ensure that the players are as well-prepared as possible for that challenge in Perth. This is not a time for looking backwards. Of course you've got to learn lessons from the games that you've just played, because you don't want to make the same mistakes again. But as for a reflection on my personal cricketing philosophy, this is not the time for it.

England on Tuesday named their limited-overs squads to play Australia after the Ashes, from which Kevin Pietersen, James Anderson and Graeme Swann were missing, and Flower said that a de facto rotation policy was intended to prevent fatigue affecting the Test XI.

"I don't think we're jaded," he said. "I don't think we have been skilful in dealing with what the opposition have thrown our way. I think that's part of the reason why we take players out of the spotlight occasionally is to ensure they don't burn out physically, or mentally of emotionally because the schedules are quite heavy. We try to make those decisions in a responsible manner. The main reason for pulling players out of squads is so that we can maximise their skills and their strengths when they do play. That is one of the challenges, the intensity and the regularity of or fixtures."

In four innings, England have only gone past 200 once and Flower admitted that getting big scores on the board, particularly in the first innings, was a priority. The highest individual score by an England batsman is Joe Root's 87, while the senior trio of Alastair Cook, Pietersen and Ian Bell have just one half-century apiece and Flower said that more was required of the team's experienced core, which includes the likes of Anderson and Swann.

"In these sorts of contests and series where the intensity levels are high, you do need your more experienced players, players who have been through similar situations in the past, to come through tough periods and play match-defining innings or produce pressure to create chances with the ball. Yes, absolutely we do," Flower said.

"I think past glories mean nothing in this context. We've got a big challenge to stop the momentum of the opposition and to get ahead in the game. One of those biggest challenges is getting a first innings score on the board. Without that you can't put pressure on the opposition. We had Australia 130 for six in Brisbane but since then they've been ahead in both games."


Andy Flower and Alastair Cook look on, Adelaide, December 3, 2013
Andy Flower and his captain Alastair Cook have much to consider ahead of the third Test © Getty Images
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On the subject of whether some of England's problems were self-inflicted, with poor shot selection costing a number of players their wickets, Flower was clear. "It has happened too often," he said. "Any punter watching the game back home could tell you that. It is the responsibility of the players to find that balance. You can't score runs without playing shots but you have to assess the conditions, assess the balance of the pitch, assess the field setting and then you deliver your game plan accordingly."

England deployed both Swann and Monty Panesar in Adelaide but, with the WACA expected to offer pace and bounce, the requirement for spin will be reduced. Tim Bresnan, who would also stiffen the batting, has been tipped to return to the side after recovering from a back stress fracture, while Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett and Boyd Rankin all offer extra height and bounce. Flower, however would not be drawn on the subject of whether Swann, whose four wickets in the series have come at 99.25, would keep his place, or if England might consider an all-pace attack.

"The conditions in Perth will be very different," he said. "We picked two spinners and that was the right decision to make considering how it turned on day one. We will assess those conditions and we pick the side to give us the best chance of winning. Graeme Swann has been an outstanding spin bowler for us and been very much a part of England's success but we'll assess those conditions and see who will best able to help us 20 wickets."

22.00 GMT, December 10 - This article was updated with new material

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by rajuramki on (December 12, 2013, 5:57 GMT)

Flower would certainly want England to up the tempo but that is not going to happen .When England could not handle Australian pacers on relatively batsmen friendly pitches at Brisbane and Adelaide, it is unlikely that they can beat Australia at Perth. The whole Australian team is presently fired up and would not allow England to get any foot hold on the series .It is also an education for the England team to realise that they are not as good as they thought they were .

Posted by ModernUmpiresPlz on (December 12, 2013, 2:18 GMT)

@JG2704 I don't know what else Bell could have possibly done to claim the #3 spot though. He failed early on in his career, but he still had at least equal success to what Root is having now, and he is no longer that batsman. He's one of the best there is, technical and attacking, great leaver, watches the ball like a hawk. Root is vulnerable early on, whereas Bell never looks vulnerable, he just occasionally gets out early on. He recently had a shot at the spot and scored a bucketload of runs. He looks England's best bat by a million miles. I feel bad for Bell having the spot he covets, and has always coveted, taken by some kid who gets away with slashing wildly early in his innings every time he makes a score, and bogging down every English innings he's been a part of. Bogging it down doesn't matter when you're in match saving mode but it matters when you're batting first in the first innings and trying to stick the knife in. Root will be a #3 one day, but he's a #5 or #6 right now.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (December 11, 2013, 23:33 GMT)

@JG2704 / ModernUmpiresPlz: really don't like KP at 3 at all - even in the shorter formats. Firm believer in having a steadfast/grafter player at 3 like Trott, Thorpe, Ponting etc. No doubts that Bell could/can do it; kind of agree with ModernUmpiresPlz that Root can get a bit bogged down and historically I've been much happier with him down in the middle. Desperate times, desperate measures...

Posted by gop_cricket on (December 11, 2013, 22:52 GMT)

No changes in batting order, but the same order has to prove entire world that they are the right combination. Bowling is not great either exceptional Broad. In test matches one or two chances go down coz they come suddenly and not greatly alert fielder may put down, but if the bowlers are great they create another chance. That is the stack difference between Aussies and England. Aussies have been very agile on the field and have not put down any half chances either (ex: Michael C getting out when D.Warner took one of the best catches and only a half chance). Where as he himself putdown one sitter from Haddin and allowed him make a 100 and thus lost the match there itself.

Posted by YouTalkinToMe on (December 11, 2013, 22:28 GMT)

Much like Australian supporter's clutched at straws during the Ashes matches in England, the English supporter's are now in the same position.

It's like a cut and paste of names into the same posts stating; if, what, when then "we" will win.

Still, it's not over yet but realistically, only a one eyed supporter would believe they have a good chance of retaining the Ashes. For everyone else, it's obvious that the task is easier for Australia to regain the Ashes than for England to retain them.

Posted by LeeHallam on (December 11, 2013, 21:45 GMT)

Can England win in Perth? The odds are against it, but it is possible. Australia have not suddenly become a great side. England's bowling attack has created enough chances in both first innings to get Australia out for a reasonable score, but the fielders have missed too many of them. Clarke is a great batsman, the others are not, I would not swap any of them for Pietersen, Bell, Root or Cook. Johnson has blown away the England lower order because he got to them while he was fresh. He has not got many batsmen out, most of them fell to bad shots against the other bowlers. To win England must bat first, and the top order must bat well, if England are 450 for 5 at tea on day two, lets see how fast the Australian's are then!

Posted by satkaru1 on (December 11, 2013, 21:44 GMT)

England need to bat first. All english batsmen got atleast half centuries..so 3rd test will be a good fight.. It is good to see all of them came up with 50's..that should show up in 3rd test..

Posted by JG2704 on (December 11, 2013, 21:03 GMT)

@milepost on (December 11, 2013, 9:54 GMT) You seem a little obsessive re England and FFL

Posted by sidekick45 on (December 11, 2013, 19:49 GMT)

well it only takes a big innings from 1 or 2 poms and make a 1st innings big score and make a bit of pressure for the aussies to reach then the poms need to back it up with good bowling line and length and be outstanding in the field

Posted by   on (December 11, 2013, 18:56 GMT)

Even Shane Warne reckons that the Poms can fight back in the series. Can't see that one myself. Where are the big scores going to come from? All the English batters have been worked out and the plans for them beautifully executed. Perth will be the same. The Poms lack that extra oomph factor with the ball as well. No extra pace and no hostility.

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