Calm down, Flower tells England
There is no pleasing some people. As most observers of his team began to assess yesterday where exactly England might occupy in the pantheon, Andy Flower, the coach, rained on the parade before it left home.
With the No 1 place in the ICC world rankings now within touching distance, Flower said it was not occupying the team's thoughts. He said with a measured rebuttal of those who would seek to heap praise: "It's not, and it's important for the side that it's not at the forefront of our minds. At the forefront of our minds right now should be resting and recuperating after the back-to-back Tests and then getting our minds and bodies ready for the next challenge at Edgbaston.
"It's actually not only pointless looking further ahead than that, it's dangerous. So I would like to emphasise right now – and we've done the same in our dressing-room – that we're ahead in the series but we're only halfway through. So there is no point in triumphalism, we don't even know if we're going to win the series yet."
Flower's tenure as England coach since 2009 has been marked by a staunch realism and a willingness never to jump the gun. He has given compliments where they are due but, as he did throughout the Ashes last winter, he is keeping a cool and clear eye on the goal ahead.
"It's very important our players and management understand that, and keep feet firmly on the ground," he said. "We can gain great confidence from the way we've handled ourselves under pressure but next Wednesday is the start of another great test. And I don't mean Test match – I mean test of the players. They have to front up again."
Flower is well aware how wonderfully England have played in this series, in both matches applying an unrelenting purpose that ultimately would not be denied. At Trent Bridge, where they took a 2-0 lead on Monday, there were long periods when they were losing the game but it seemed never to occur to them that this would be the final outcome.
Before the third Test, which begins in Birmingham next Wednesday, England may have two selection puzzles to answer – not something the selectors have been accustomed to lately. The most difficult will be the composition of the bowling attack. Tim Bresnan came into the side as a replacement for the injured Chris Tremlett in Nottingham and took seven wickets, including 5 for 48 in the second innings and scored 101 runs, including an innings of 90.
On the other hand, Tremlett took four wickets at Lord's and regularly discomfited India's batsmen with his accuracy and steep bounce. Bresnan is now the man in occupation but he is a practical Yorkshireman who knows that nothing is certain. "That is pretty much all I can do now," he said. "It is up to the selectors, the captain or whoever is going to make the decision to pick the side for the next game. It is going to be a tough decision, someone is going to have to miss out and someone is going to be very disappointed, and I hope it is not me.
"It is a good position for English cricket really, I've said this all along. If you've got a stable of bowlers to choose from then it is going to give the selectors a headache, and that is not my problem."
Bresnan was elated at his performance, though it came out of an apprehensive start. His response was typical of his character. "It will give me so much confidence going forward, and truth be told I was a little nervous bowling first up in the game," he said. "The three overs I bowled on the first evening did not feel right at all. I had a fitful night's sleep, but then when I got to the ground on day two I just thought, 'sod it, let's have some fun and just get on with it'. I told myself to imagine I was playing in front of a packed house at Headingley and not Trent Bridge."
He is the only England player ever to have appeared on the winning side in his first eight Test matches. "Played eight, won eight," said Flower, "a stat he is not afraid to mention to me."
The other decision for the selectors may involve a replacement for Jonathan Trott if his injured shoulder, sustained in the field at Nottingham, does not recover. An MRI scan showed there was no bone damage but Flower said he was still far from 100 per cent fit. James Taylor's 76 for England Lions against Sri Lanka A yesterday, following his identical score in May when the Lions played the Sri Lankan tourists, should count if Lions games mean anything.
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