Flower keeps sights on summit
England team director Andy Flower has warned his side not to rest on their Ashes success as they aim to become the world's top-ranked Test team.
Flower has maintained during his 20-month tenure that his priority is for England to top the world rankings.
That objective would seem as close as it ever has since the ranking system was introduced a decade ago after England sealed a historic 3-1 series victory with an innings and 83-run win at the SCG.
Not only did the success end a 24-year wait for a Test series win in Australia, but it was achieved with an appreciable dominance that saw the tourists claim their three wins by more than an innings.
Those successes provided enough reassurance for Flower to proclaim today that claiming the top ranking was “achievable”, with England having now climbed to number three behind India and South Africa.
Top-ranked India will arrive in England this summer to further test the ambitions of Flower and his side and, while the Zimbabwean was keen not to play down the significance of an Ashes success, he maintained earning the highest ranking remains at the peak of his wish-list.
“It’s realistic, it’s achievable. I don’t know if we’ll get there or not, but it’s certainly what we are aiming for,” said Flower, who has now overseen an unbeaten run of 15 series in all formats of the game.
“This result will give the players a lot of confidence, and some of the results they are achieving is building that confidence all the time.
“Winning the Twenty20 World Cup, playing well in South Africa and winning the last two Ashes series; these are all things that will build the confidence of the side.
“To be honest, any Test win is a very proud moment for me and our players because it takes a lot of hard work to get there.
“Not just four or five days of the Test, but the lead-up, the meetings and thought that goes into it.
“Our ultimate goal is to be number one, but in no way would I demean the Ashes series in saying that.
“Any series against any international nation is important in its own right. I think it would be disrespectful to view it any differently.
“The history of the Ashes is unique and special, but our goal is to be number one.”
Flower’s immediate concern, however, is to prepare his side for the upcoming limited-overs series against Australia.
England left for Canberra today ahead of their warm-up match against a Prime Minister’s XI on Monday before two Twenty20s and seven one-day internationals.
Those matches will form the major part of their preparations for the World Cup in the sub-continent, although Flower believes it is not an ideal situation given the contrasting conditions his side will face on the harder Australian wickets.
“It’s a strange run-in, yes, we’ll be playing one-day cricket but in Australian conditions,” he said.
“The type of cricket we’ll need to win in sub-continent conditions will be different, different skills, different make-up to the side maybe, perhaps a slightly different batting order.
“It makes the run-in a little tricky, but it’s good preparation in that we are playing a good side and it’s going to be tough cricket that should harden us up before we get out to the sub-continent.
“We’ll incorporate types of training that will stand us in good stead in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, not just here.”
And after Australia’s humiliation in the Test series, Flower is expecting a tough time in the shorter format.
“They are the number one ODI side and we are languishing in mid-table,” he added.
“It is a huge challenge for us and we won’t have two of our premier strike bowlers in Anderson and Broad, so it’s a challenge for our bowling attack, but also an exciting opportunity for them and for us.”
Andrew Strauss will be rested for Monday’s warm-up match in Canberra, with the skipper set to fly to Melbourne where he has a house, meaning Paul Collingwood will lead the team.