Andy Flower: 'England weren't ready to play'
Monday 06 February 2012
The repeated failures of England's world-class batsmen against Pakistan have left England captain Andrew Strauss and team director Andy Flower still searching for answers as to what exactly has gone wrong.
Today's 71-run defeat in the final Test, to complete a 3-0 series whitewash, is hardly a surprise consequence of a third successive collective underachievement from players who have so often proved themselves capable of so much better.
Throughout they have foundered principally against Pakistan spin in alien conditions - Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman have shared a colossal 43 wickets - and no frontline England batsman has managed to average even 30.
Ian Bell was under 10, Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan under 15.
Those hapless figures ensured four sub-200 totals from six attempts, including one collapse to 72 all out in the second-Test defeat in Abu Dhabi.
Strauss and Flower remain convinced that their personnel is of the highest calibre, and England's ascent to the top of the world rankings supports that conviction.
But while Strauss today stated more of the home truths which have accompanied England's two previous defeats here, it seems Flower is beginning to believe the four and a half months spent away from the Test arena before the series cost his team dear.
Flower told Sky Sports 1: "(We spent a) couple of months out of the game and not doing a lot, while Pakistan were beating Sri Lanka and working hard to beat Bangladesh, and that hardened them up for this contest.
"Looking back, I don't think we were ready. I shoulder that side of the blame, because it was my decision to give them that time off. We won't let that happen again.
"Certainly during that rest time our team and support staff were all being lauded, and while that was happening, Pakistan were working hard at their game and beating international opposition.
"Consequently one side was sharp and ready and one side wasn't and we've got to do something about that."
Strauss senses England's troubles are not necessarily a result of their autumn inactivity, and the solutions ought still to be in their own hands.
"If you keep getting bowled out for 140 or 150 you're not going to win many Test matches," he said. "I haven't been involved in a series where so many of our batsmen have had such a hard time.
"We've all got questions to answer and a bit of soul-searching to put into how we can do things better. We're all proud players, we're all asking ourselves the same question.
"But I've got great faith in our batsmen, I think they're some of the best batsmen in the world."
Strauss will not cower from problems which have afflicted him as badly as his team-mates.
"We can't just completely ignore it and say it's an aberration because that would be not doing ourselves any justice and not helping ourselves," he added.
"But I still believe the best players there are in England right at the moment are out here in Dubai.
"Maybe this is a good eye-opener for us and a wake-up call that things are not easy in this part of the world.
"With two more subcontinent tours in the next 12 months, things aren't going to get any easier."
Many may advocate dropping out-of-form batsmen, but England will not easily discard any of the players who have taken them to the pinnacle of world cricket.
"No one's got a right to play for England forever, that's patently wrong," Strauss added. "But it's important we take a little time to let the dust settle and start thinking about what went wrong individually.
"There are obviously some regrets about the way we played their spinners, more particularly in the first Test match, because that sets the tone for the rest of the series. It becomes more and more difficult after that point.
"I think all of us felt more comfortable at the back end. But the die had been cast by then."
Strauss is convinced England's batsmen have made progress in their quest to combat subcontinental spin, albeit too slowly.
"Before this Test we did some really good work on some aspects of our play against spin and that needs to be the launchpad to really take things to another level," he said.
"But we could and should have been better. If you're a good enough player you find a way of making sure you don't repeat the same mistakes.
"We haven't been good enough or quick enough in adapting our games here.
"English sides traditionally haven't played very well out here. We need to break that habit, that tradition, and we're not going to do it by doing the same things England sides have always done."
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