Ashes 2013-14: Ben Stokes hundred in Perth highlights England's batting failures this series, admits coach Andy Flower
Flower says Stokes' 120 was 'brilliant' but accepts it underlines the batting failures that have haunted the team in their Ashes defeat
Thursday 19 December 2013
Ben Stokes' “brilliant” maiden Test hundred gave Andy Flower great encouragement for the future, but also underlined the deficiencies of others in England's unsuccessful Ashes campaign.
Stokes' second-innings 120 in Perth was an oasis of achievement, as England otherwise descended wretchedly to a third successive defeat to concede the Ashes before Christmas.
Flower was, like thousands of others, deeply impressed by the 22-year-old's innings.
But after the tourists nonetheless lost by 150 runs, to hand Australia an unassailable 3-0 lead, the coach lamented an absence of even one other England hundred in the series.
Australia already have seven individual centuries, one of several damning statistics illustrating their unquestioned superiority.
Reflecting on Stokes' performance in only his second Test, Flower said: "That was a brilliant Test hundred.
"To play on one of the bounciest tracks in the world - that was cracking as well - and in a situation that we were in, I thought that was an outstanding effort."
Other experienced players, however, have failed England this winter.
"It is interesting that our only Test century has come from a 22-year-old all-rounder," added Flower.
"That is certainly a snapshot of our batting under-performance.
"It is very obvious we under-performed badly with the bat.
"Our bowlers, in every second innings, have not had enough time off to recuperate and then put the opposition under pressure."
Flower and England's lot now is to try to avoid a repeat of the 2006/07 whitewash inflicted on Andrew Flintoff's tourists by Australia.
He is well aware too of the need to start planning for the future, but is unsure whether he can afford to make wholesale changes which might make England even more vulnerable in the short term.
"One of the challenges we have got is focusing on those (last two Tests) and trying to win them, but also trying to judge when we start to look to the future.
"So I will be chatting with the selectors and (captain) Alastair Cook, and we will be clarifying that type of strategy over the next few days."
Seasoned performers such as wicketkeeper Matt Prior, off-spinner Graeme Swann and key batsman Kevin Pietersen are among those who have not done themselves justice here.
"It is time for those guys to stand up - in fact, it's past time, because the series is lost," said Flower.
As for his own future, open to question in many quarters, Flower made it clear that - whatever he or his employers decide - he will always try to do what is best for the England team.
"I wouldn't want [to leave this series as a full stop in my England coaching career], but that is not really important in the scheme of things.
"We always make decisions which are in the best interests of the team and not in the best interests of the individual."
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