Andy Flower takes break as England aim for final one-day flourish against South Africa
Hard-working coach to sit out Trent Bridge game to spend more time with his family
Andy Flower, the England coach, is missing the final one-day international of the summer today to spend more time with his family. This is not the sanctuary sought by wayward politicians but rather because it is the end of the school holidays and the start of the new term and Flower has been on the road for months.
He was not at the team's training session at Trent Bridge yesterday and nor will he be there for the fifth match of the NatWest Series today.
England have already ensured that they cannot lose the series by going 2-1 ahead at Lord's on Sunday and whatever happens today they are certain to keep their world No 1 ranking until January at least.
England were anxious to emphasise that the temporary leave had nothing to do with the Kevin Pietersen affair which remains unresolved. Flower has long advocated the need for rest for players and coaches alike but musing on its desirability and putting it into practice are two different things. Australia have led the way by allowing their coach Micky Arthur to miss the present one-day series against Pakistan in the UAE with his assistant Steve Rixon taking over.
The trouble for a coach is always the criticism likely to ensue if the side loses a match or series in which he does not have the reins. But England's schedule is so packed that the case for having a break is overwhelming.
The squad leave for Sri Lanka on 17 September, five days after the end of their home international season, coming back on 8 October if they reach the final. On 25 October they embark on their Test tour of India, returning home on 23 December before flying to the sub-continent again on 2 January for a one-day series ending on 28 January. Immediately, they go to New Zealand for a full tour lasting until 22 March. With the English season then imminent, and an Ashes tour following hard on its heels, the pressure of business is clear. Flower could probably miss part of the New Zealand tour, even if he feels he must attend every day in India.
England are aware of the strains that can be imposed on family life for which top wages cannot fully compensate. The only foolproof method of guaranteeing more time off is to reduce the amount of cricket and that is not about to happen in the life of the Future Tours Programme now seemingly set in stone until 2020.
Richard Halsall, originally brought into the England fold as a specialist fielding coach, deputises for Flower.
One decision Halsall will not have to take, in consultation with Alastair Cook, is whether to pick Jonathan Trott today, after the Warwickshire batsman was ruled out following his hand injury. The injury was sustained when he was struck by fast bowler Dale Steyn on Sunday, and England clearly do not want to risk aggravating it any further. Jonny Bairstow of Yorkshire will take Trott's place.
Trent Bridge details
England (possible): A N Cook (capt), I R Bell, J Bairstow, R S Bopara, E J G Morgan, C Kieswetter (wkt), S Patel, J Tredwell, J M Anderson, S T Finn, J Dernbach.
South Africa (possible): G C Smith, H M Amla, J-P Duminy, D Elgar, A B De Villiers (capt/wkt), F du Plessis, W D Parnell, D W Steyn, R J Peterson, M Morkel, L L Tsotsobe.
Umpires H D P K Dharmasena (Sri Lanka), R K Illingworth (England).
Weather Mostly sunny throughout the day, with a maximum temperature of 18C.
TV Sky Sports 1, 1.30-10.30pm. Highlights: Channel 5, 11.45-12.45am.
Odds England 10-11; South Africa 4-5.
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