Flower's Ashes warning: We've won nothing yet
Coach hails 'perfect' performance but reminds players there is a long way to go
Thursday 09 December 2010
With expectations never as great since Philip Pirrip was a lad, it was time for England to draw breath yesterday. Yes, said their eternally pragmatic coach, Andy Flower, they had won a magnificent victory against Australia, but no, they had not succeeded in anything so far.
This was precisely the response that could have been anticipated from the man whose reaction to winning the Ashes at home in 2009 was: "It has worked out OK but we don't want to go overboard." If that was how he felt with the terracotta urn safely ensnared he was hardly going to jump in the deep end after one measly Test match, never mind that it was the most complete and satisfying of victories by an innings and 71 runs.
The only diving in celebration of the victory was left to Paul Collingwood who ran to the middle of the Adelaide Oval which was by then under water two hours after the win on Tuesday. Wearing only his underpants he swallow-dived into the rapidly forming lake on the pitch.
Flower was less exultant. "From anyone's point of view it was satisfying," he said. "The players are proud of the way they performed in that Test and rightly so and so are we as a coaching group. It was a superb effort. You don't often get a perfect game like that, do you, where you bowl the opposition out on a good deck on the first day, then get a big lead and bowl them out again before you have to bat again. So it was lovely.
"You can't say we have succeeded in anything so far, we're 1-0 up and there are three matches to go. What I will say is that our guys are delivering their skills under pressure and that is the challenge every game."
England arrived in here in Melbourne yesterday for a three-day tour match against Victoria due to start tomorrow morning in the early hours UK time at the MCG. It is already in some doubt because of the volume of rain that has fallen in the city in the last week and was still sheeting down yesterday, having followed England from Adelaide.
The tourists will be keen to put the three reserve fast bowlers through their paces as one of them must replace Stuart Broad in the XI for the third Test in Perth a week today. Broad is out for the rest of the series and Jimmy Anderson has gone home for four days to attend the birth of his second child. He is expected to arrive back in Perth next Tuesday after the rest of his colleagues.
Andrew Strauss will lead the side and although Flower refused to give any clues, the batsmen most likely to have a rest are Alastair Cook after Test innings of 67, 235 not out and 148, and Jonathan Trott.
In an exemplary team performance at Adelaide it was Graeme Swann who finished Australia off as he did at The Oval last year in the Test which decided the Ashes. There is no question that his influence on the course of events in the next few weeks could be decisive.
His 5 for 91 in Australia's second innings in Adelaide has taken him to 60 wickets in 12 Tests this year, more than any other player in the world and 12 more than his nearest rival, who is Anderson. On six occasions he has taken five wickets in an innings. And they said finger spin was dead.
"I think he is an outstanding bowler, an outstanding competitor," said Flower. "You can't get away from results and he has been producing results for us on a consistent basis."
Flower played against Swann many times a few years ago and spotted something then. But he has developed a different type of game, as a clever, cunning manipulator of a cricket ball and of batsmen, quite at odds with the cheeky chappie image.
"He always had lots of energy on the ball, that's what I remember about him and therefore got the ball to drift or dip a little and spin," said Flower. "Some of the other stuff he has acquired now, his patience, discipline, nous. He is quite a canny operator now. In amongst all the jokes et cetera he's quite a smart cookie so he brings a lot to us.
"He's really good for our dressing room because it's not exactly the rowdiest in the world and he's a good guy to have around. We want people to influence our dressing room in a positive way, in their own way and he does that. He's very much his own man." And he is very much England's man.
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