Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Flower unconcerned by pitch talk

England are unfazed by reports that Australia are considering dropping in a faster pitch in Melbourne, to try to prey on the tourists' perceived vulnerabilities.

Ricky Ponting made much before and after his team's third Ashes Test victory in Perth of England's failure to cope with extreme pace and bounce.

But coach Andy Flower, who has also made it clear England are still targeting outright Ashes victory rather than mere retention of the urn, knows - whatever steps are taken - there will be no WACA-like conditions at the MCG on Boxing Day.

"We won't see similar conditions in Melbourne, because it doesn't bounce as much there," he said. "When we were there for the three-day game they were preparing two pitches.

"One looked barer than the other, and they were debating then which they wanted to use.

"They weren't that happy with the look of the slightly barer one, so more than likely they'll go with the one with more grass cover."

In any case, Flower does not subscribe to the theory that bounce inevitably defeats England.

"We didn't handle The Wanderers (last year) or Perth well," he said.

"But Old Trafford goes through and bounces as much as anywhere, and we've got a good record there."

It will therefore come as no surprise and will be of no concern either to England, if there is a slightly greener tinge to the Melbourne strip.

However the surface looks, Flower is targeting victory in both the fourth and fifth Tests as England seek to recover from their series-levelling 267-run defeat in Perth.

"I don't think I would accept a retaining of the Ashes at this point - we want to play to win the series," he said. "We have bounced back from setbacks before, and this is another situation we have to do that."

Flower also rejects any suggestion that the arrival of the players' families this past week somehow took their eye off the ball.

"I don't equate the arrival of the families with us losing the Perth Test," he said.

"If I did notice some effect I'd have spoken out about it."

Flower is already planning a repeat of England's preparations last year for a Boxing Day Test - in which they exceeded most expectations with an innings victory over South Africa.

"We'll have a brilliant Christmas lunch, which we're all looking forward to.

"We did the same in Durban last year and won the Test there."

* England pace spearhead James Anderson felt stiffness in his side after the Perth Test but is not thought to be in any doubt for Melbourne.