Preparing Test team is priority - Flower
Andy Flower knows England must be ruthless in selection to make sure they have the right men at the top of their game when they begin the Ashes campaign in Brisbane.
Two warm-up fixtures remain for the tourists to fine-tune their preparations for the first Test against Australia, starting on November 25.
But Flower will not be tempted, it seems, to delve into the back-up contingent in his squad to face either South Australia in Adelaide this week or Australia A in Hobart.
The England team director made it clear he will not tinker with his first-choice side simply to maintain harmony among the extended squad.
“One of our priorities is not to give everyone a go; it’s not about trying to be fair to everyone,” he said. “We are trying to prepare our Test side for Brisbane. That’s the priority.
“When you’ve got a squad of 16 or 17, obviously everyone wants to play. Everyone’s very proud to represent their country, whether in preparation games or internationals.
“But our priority is to ensure that our Test XI is as ready as possible for the first Test.”
Flower gave the tourists a day off today, after their flight from Perth yesterday, but England will be back in the nets and on fielding drills tomorrow ahead of Thursday's game.
The recipe devised by the coach and his colleagues - the players’ mantra is ‘practise hard, play easy’ - bore fruit in the six-wicket win over Western Australia.
There could be few qualms about England’s performance and Flower certainly appears highly satisfied.
“It’s a challenge for all of our players to get used to the different conditions, different ball, different climate,” he said. “The fast bowlers themselves, I thought, did superbly well.
“They showed how they improved in accuracy in the second innings - and to win from that position was a superb effort.”
Only a double failure for Alastair Cook at the top of the order was seemingly a worry, but not for Flower.
“I don’t have concerns,” he said. “It’s one game, two innings. I think he’s going to do well.”
Cook is set to get further opportunity at the Adelaide Oval this week and Flower sees the value of England playing at another Ashes venue after last week at the WACA.
“It was very important for us to get that middle time,” he added.
“We had one middle practice a few days before. But that sort of competitiveness on the Test wicket is important preparation for our guys.
“Again this match in Adelaide will be good experience on the Test square. That will be vital preparation for us.”
Policy, under Flower and captain Andrew Strauss, is to name their teams only on the morning of each match.
But the coach left little room for doubt about his plans when he said: “We’re fairly clear about the skeleton XI (for Brisbane).
“You can’t plan too far ahead, because you never know what happens with injuries or form.”
One box ticked in bold in Perth was runs for the captain as Strauss’ unbeaten second-innings 120 carrying England to victory.
Flower is naturally heartened by that, but insists it is no more significant for Strauss to have made a hundred than any of the other batsmen.
“That’s a very good thing for our side obviously,” he said. “Captains want to lead from the front. He is an important man, because he’s our leader.
“But it’s important for all of our guys to contribute, so I don’t think one batsman is more important than the next. They’ve all got to do it.”
In England’s so far successful four-man bowling strategy, Graeme Swann has been touted by many as the key performer.
Flower acknowledges Swann has a telling role to play, but is keen again to put the individual’s task into the context of overall team performance.
“Expectations on Graeme Swann are high, and I think everyone just needs to keep calm about that,” he said. “He’s a very fine bowler. But he’s one of four bowlers in our Test attack. He will make his contributions, there’s no doubt about that.
“He’s confident, but our whole side works together to create pressure - and he’s one of those guys.”