Flower orders quick course in handling spin


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The Independent Online

As coaches often find to their cost, if there is one thing worse than making mistakes it is refusing to learn from them. Andy Flower has therefore proposed England go on what amounts to a rapid skills development course to play spin in Asia.

With two away Test series this year – in Sri Lanka next month and in India in November – the team's batsmen can expect an ordeal by slow-turning torture following their lamentable deficiencies in the series against Pakistan, which finished on Monday in a resounding 3-0 whitewash for the world's No 1 team.

The one-day batsmen will have to acquire knowledge on the hoof during the series against Pakistan which starts on Monday. Given that the opposition are likely to field four slow bowlers of various types and pedigree, there can be no more intensive tutorial.

But two of the probable team in Sri Lanka, Andrew Strauss, the captain, and Ian Bell, are no longer in the limited-overs party. In a sign that the selectors will not be pushed into making knee-jerk changes, they will almost certainly go to Sri Lanka ahead of their colleagues to try to adjust to conditions and work on new methods to approach a puzzle that England have not come close to solving.

The details have yet to be finalised but Flower is clear that something has to be done and quickly. "Looking at the lessons in preparation for the tour of the UAE, we are going to have slightly different preparation for the Sri Lanka and India tours which I can't give details about," he said. "It is nothing fancy, just a skeleton plan at the moment which has not been signed. Strauss and Bell will be doing something before the Sri Lanka tour."

Bell and Eoin Morgan were made odds-on to be dropped for Sri Lanka after Monday's defeat by 71 runs in the third Test but both may survive.

The mood emanating from the selectors is that while the Pakistan series was catastrophic the same players had taken all before them in the previous 18 months. It is a reasonable point enhanced by the fact that there are few other options. Flower has faith in his men. "I do because they are good players, they have operated under pressure in all sort of conditions," he said.

"What they have to do is adapt their games to a game that will succeed against these types of bowler in these conditions, they have shown they can do that before but they are going to have to do so very quickly in this one-day series."

Another pertinent point, of course, is that Sri Lanka may prepare the pitches but they no longer have the high-quality spinners to take full advantage of them. England will play England Lions tomorrow in the only practice match before the one-day series. Any slow men around will get a game.