Flower hails England for their growth in the desert

 

England reach the end of their most peculiar tour tonight by playing in front of their largest crowd. The Sheikh Zayed Stadium, another sporting monument which appears to have sprung up among sand dunes, will have a capacity audience for the decisive Twenty20 match against Pakistan.

The Tests and most of the one-dayers were played in an overwhelming silence of the sort that once existed only in libraries or cathedrals. No matter the reasons or excuses, it is still testimony to the popularity of T20 at the expense of other forms of the game.

Considering the accomplished fashion in which England levelled the series at 1-1 towards midnight on Saturday, they would seem to have every chance of ending this trip on a high note.

They won by 38 runs, bowling out their opponents for 112 with 10 balls remaining after the 22-year-old Jonny Bairstow played a powerful and measured innings of 60 not out to show that the young may well inherit the Twenty20 earth.

But it has been the strangest two months for many reasons. The two sides have shuttled back and forth between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, exchanging one desert location for another every few days, and until the last two matches going about their business relatively undisturbed.

That has been embellished by the oddness of the results. The Test and one-day series went the ways nobody would have predicted, whitewashes both to the less expected side.

"It has been a fascinating tour," said the England coach, Andy Flower. "It's been very good for our growth as a group I think. Sometimes you learn some harsh but very good lessons when you don't do that well. So out of the Test series I hope that we've become a better side.

"It's been nice to see how we've bounced back in the limited-overs stuff. I think that's testament to the strength of the group and also the confidence of the group to come back as strongly as we have."

Hopefully Bairstow will continue where he left off on Saturday when he hit an unbeaten 60 off just 46 balls as England made 150 for 7.

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