Flower quick to defend petulant England


It is one thing to lose, it is another to lose badly.

While it would be wrong to imply that England were a mutinous, ill-tempered rabble as they lost the match and the one-day series to India on Thursday, nor did they conduct themselves with composure or probity.

Petulance mounted as India's innings wore on and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, once more the cause of their downfall, pointed as much out afterwards. What stared England in the face, except defeat, was that their much-vaunted unity was a result of winning which might fracture in defeat.

The all-rounder, Tim Bresnan, was fined 7.5 per cent of his match fee for showing dissent to the umpire when he grabbed his cap, which was not so much a slap across the wrist as a gentle stroking. But everywhere except the referee's room it was the behaviour of other England players, towards each other, that was the subject of discussion. Mistakes happen in cricket matches, as in all games, all walks of life, but in the heat of several moments during the third one-day international, England's players looked as though they detested each other.

Andy Flower, the team's measured coach who knows the dressing room better than anybody, declined to see it that way yesterday. "I think one reason for our success over the past couple of years is that players set very high standards," he said. "They challenge each other. We try to ensure that we have a culture of openness and honesty when we review situations and I think that has been part of our strength.

"I would also say there is a balance to be found and our side like any side is not perfect and we were all trying to improve each other in all sorts of ways and sometimes we get that balance right and sometimes slightly wrong."

Was the Chandigarh Stadium on Thursday night a case of England getting it wrong? "It could be an example, yes. Our guys have driven themselves and each other to some incredible results over the past couple of years and they do set themselves very high standards so I think people should not get too carried away with their criticism in this regard." Flower said that the match referee Roshan Mahanama spoke to both sides after the second match in Delhi and said he was right to do so. But if he was disturbed by some of the side's antics he was not letting on.

Jade Dernbach, an inexperienced fast bowler whose star has risen swiftly, was especially volatile after errors were made off his bowling and Craig Kieswetter, the wicketkeeper-batsman who had a moderate night in both disciplines, at one stage swept a stump out of the ground in annoyance.

"I think the officials are there to ensure that sporting conduct occurs," he said. "If the game wasn't being played in the right way it's their job to step in. As I say in the main I am very proud of the way our team behaves and I think we conduct ourselves the way we should in international cricket."

There are two matches to go and nothing has happened so far that a win will not rectify. But having suffered two sizeable defeats and then a much closer one by five wickets, it will be hard for England to come back. What happens now is a test for the team and for the fledgling captaincy of Alastair Cook.

One question being persistently floated yesterday was whether such behaviour would have occurred under Andrew Strauss's leadership. Not many suggested that it would.