We were right not to gamble says Miller

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The Independent Online

National selector Geoff Miller believes yesterday's Ashes triumph is England's just reward for sticking by their youngsters throughout a topsy-turvy series.

Andrew Flintoff returned in place of Graham Onions for the fifth Test at The Oval and other than that Jonathan Trott was the only change to the England line-up from the team which slumped to defeat within two and a half days at Headingley.

Warwickshire batsman Trott justified his selection with a debut second-innings hundred while youngsters such as Stuart Broad came good under pressure after difficult starts.

Miller now wants the team to build on their 2-1 series success against Australia.

He told BBC Radio Five Live: "It's always easy to gamble. We're not in the throes of gambling. We've set out the way we want to go forward - the word we use so often and it's important now is 'consistency'.

"We'll continue to do that. It's proved that is the way forward. The youngsters, when they feel they're secure and part of a unit, they start getting better and better and that augurs well for the future.

"Everyone played really well. We scored 700 runs on that wicket so we deserved the victory."

Broad, whose five wickets for 37 runs in the first innings at The Oval earned him the man-of-the-match award, has been tipped as the natural successor to Flintoff.

But Miller has warned not to heap too much expectation on the 23-year-old's shoulders.

"It doesn't necessarily just fall on Stuart, we'll have to assess it," he said.

"We know all right Fred (Flintoff) is not going to be part of our middle order but we're looking at players continually who can fit into that category and move on."

Of Flintoff, who bowed out from Test cricket in style yesterday with the crucial run-out of Australia captain Ricky Ponting, Miller added: "He's been absolutely fantastic for the game of cricket worldwide and certainly for England.

"We will miss him but he's made a decision. He knows what his body's like so we'll run with that.

"He's not packed up on one-day cricket so when everything's sorted out with his operation, or whatever happens to him on Tuesday, we'll take it from there.

"It might be a long break but we know what he's capable of doing. We know what he wants, he's passionate to play for England and you saw it yesterday."

Hugh Morris, managing director of England cricket, is delighted with the progress the team have made.

He said: "I was lucky enough to be in the team hotel last night. You could just see the boys were absolutely elated with their performance.

"I think we've come a long way over the last eight or nine months. The way Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower as team director have led the team and the team have responded, I think is fantastic, and I'm a very, very proud person to work with them."

Morris insists the celebrations will not be too boisterous, though, with a busy schedule ahead.

He added: "We've got a one-day international with Ireland in a few days' time, two Twenty20 internationals, seven one-day internationals so we've got a pretty busy programme.

"We'll be looking forward to the challenges of those games."

Miller, looking ahead to the tour of South Africa, continued: "We've got to make sure we're ready and up for South Africa but we have got to make sure we're playing good cricket prior to that as well.

"It's strength in depth and we're gradually getting there. It's all looking good for the future.

"We've always been fair with the players and given them ample opportunity to succeed. If they fall short we explain the situation and we have to move on but we've got some quality players knocking on the door.

"Jonathan Trott did really well for the Lions in the build-up to this - we knew the direction we wanted to go.

"Mark Ramprakash is a good player but we have to stick to the plans we've set out, so the players can feel confident they can go out there and perform without looking over their shoulder all the time."

On the future of Steve Harmison, who is undecided about his international future, Miller continued: "He knows what he wants to do and achieve and if he still wants to be a part of it we'll assess it then.

"For now the one-day series is where our focus is. We've sorted out what we want to do and we're happy and know what we'll be up against."

Asked what his key moment of the Test series was, Miller added: "It has been a team effort, everyone has performed at some stage - but there was a massive incident at Cardiff.

"Grabbing a draw there was a huge part of winning the Ashes. The batting performance of James Anderson and Monty Panesar was absolutely superb at that stage...I think that was the defining moment when we thought 'we can win this series now'."

Morris, who also pinpointed the final session of the first Test at Cardiff as a key moment in the series, told Sky Sports News: "I feel we've got some really good young players coming through...it's really important to have a deep talent pool...there's a real incentive for players playing in county cricket now.

"They were very tough times at Christmas, there's no getting away from that. It's been difficult and challenging but often you have to go through those periods to come out the other end.

"What we have to do now is go back there (Australia) in 15-16 months and plan and prepare well. We don't want to make the mistake again - we know what happened there last time (England lost 5-0).

"We have a very busy schedule so the amount of preparation time is really important. The players must follow their fitness regimes, that's the culture we want, we want to keep them fit and on the park for as long as we can."