Flower expects Anderson to be fit for Ashes

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The Independent Online

England team director Andy Flower today declared himself confident James Anderson would be fit for the first Ashes Test in Brisbane on November 25.

Seamer Anderson cracked a rib during the side's recent training camp in Germany but is already bowling again and could even be involved in two of the warm-up games Down Under.

"He's already bowling at 75%, so he should be fine for the first Test," Flower said this afternoon.

"More than likely, he'll be okay for two of those warm-up games."

Anderson was injured during England's training camp in Bavaria this month while boxing against an unnamed team-mate - reportedly Chris Tremlett.

Despite the setback, Flower had no regrets over the controversial camp.

"No, none at all," he said.

"It's was an excellent camp, actually, and I think the players and management that were involved in it did things that they might never have done before in their lives and might never do again, and it was a very healthy experience."

Flower was also unconcerned about star batsman Kevin Pietersen, who has not scored a Test century since March 2009 and was forced to apologise for an expletive-laden rant on Twitter upon being dropped by the one-day side.

Pietersen joined South African side Kwazulu Natal Dolphins in bid to rediscover his form but made 36 and a second-ball duck in his two first-class innings.

Flower said: "He's very well; he enjoyed his trip to South Africa; and he's in a very good state of mind ready for the tour.

"He didn't get many opportunities (for Natal). Unfortunately, the way the games panned out, he only got one innings in each game.

"But he did some really good work with the Natal side and I think it would've stood him in good stead.

"He feels good about his cricket; he feels confident going into Australia."

England will head to Australia above their arch-rivals in the Test rankings following the latter's series defeat in India.

But Flower questioned whether that made his side favourites, saying: "I'm not sure that it is the case.

"I think they are fairly evenly-matched sides.

"We're playing Australia in Australia, where they've got a very good record.

"We respect the opposition, but we don't fear them.

"We're very confident about our own side and it should be a very exciting series to be involved in and for people to watch."

Shrugging off the impact of Australia's performances in India, Flower added: "The conditions are very different to the ones that we will face in Australia.

"That series will mean very little come the Brisbane Test.

"We obviously watch our opposition and we analyse them - and that's important for our preparation.

"This series is a totally different series but we're confident going into it."

Refusing to comment on the pressure on under-fire Australia captain Ricky Ponting, Flower was also unconcerned about any momentum loss England might have suffered since their last competitive match a month ago.

"There are all sorts of things spoken about momentum," he said.

"Our form's been good, our team feels confident, and we understand the challenge of going to Australia and beating Australia out there."

However, Flower has learnt the lessons from predecessor Duncan Fletcher's ill-advised lack of meaningful warm-up games during England's 5-0 whitewash Down Under four years ago.

"I think those three first-class games we play are going to be very important for our preparation," Flower said.

"The Brisbane test historically is important as a tone-setter for series in Australia.

"The three first-class games are important for our batsmen to get into form, our bowlers to do enough work that they are ready to attack from ball one in Brisbane and to get up to speed with Australian conditions, the heat, the pitches, the different ball.

"In all sorts of ways, they are very important."

Flower revealed he already had a starting XI in his mind for the first Test but insisted that could change.

"We are fairly clear with what we want," said Flower, who will rotate his squad during the warm-up matches but admitted he could not promise everyone a game.

"There is still flexibility for decisions based on confidence, form or any variety of conditions we'll come across."

That may or may not include playing both Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar during the tour.

"I'd be surprised if we came across a pitch that we judge as turning that much that we'd want to play two spinners," said Flower, speaking on the day when the England and Wales Cricket Board announced 33,000 coaches had graduated from the Sky Sports ECB Coach Education Programme since its 2006 launch.

"I think one of our strengths is our spin department. But if those conditions are presented to us, that's an option."