Flower calls for swift improvements
England may still be top of the world in Test cricket but after their 10-wicket defeat against Pakistan, team director Andy Flower believes the only way is up for his team.
On their ascent to number one in the International Cricket Council's Test rankings, England have recovered impressively several times from what captain Andrew Strauss last night termed "aberrations".
Flower today echoed Strauss' straight talking, agreeing too that there should not and must not be any panic from England after one defeat.
Like the captain too, England's team director will not be getting in the batsmen's ears about their disappointments against Saeed Ajmal's off-spin in particular.
He is well aware they know as well as him that they did not do themselves justice in the first Test.
Flower will stick therefore not to lectures about technique but the broader base of man-management, which has served England's generation of world-beating talent so well over the past three years.
"One of our principles is to continually improve - and we can certainly improve on this performance," he said.
"We all know that it was the batting that let us down in this Test. But our batsmen have a pretty good record against spin, so I don't think it's a matter of reinventing the wheel.
"Of course, we will try to learn from it. But they all have their individual strengths, and they have to focus on those - and most of our batsmen will recognise that they under-performed for various reasons in this Test match."
There were some examples of poor shot selection from England's world-class batsmen at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, among them Strauss' first-innings dismissal to Ajmal and Kevin Pietersen's in the second to seamer Umar Gul.
Strauss is without an international hundred since Brisbane more than a year ago, but has made four half-centuries in a relatively light Test match schedule since then.
"He's a pretty calm bloke, and I wouldn't say he's in poor form at all," Flower said of the captain.
"He looks very composed and compact at the crease. He got out in the first innings to a shot he wouldn't want to repeat, and he was unlucky in the second innings - so that's how it goes sometimes.
"He will come back. As Strauss said yesterday, there's no point in panicking. What we've got to do is play better."
As for Pietersen, who tried to get off the mark with an attempted pick-up pull over the head of deep square-leg, Flower believes he can learn from his mistakes, along with the other batsmen.
"All batsmen are under pressure to make good decisions, and it's unfair to single out one batsman." he added.
"In a number of instances in both innings, there were soft dismissals and poor decisions - and if you make poor decisions in Test cricket, you get severely punished for it.
"Our batsmen have a record of making a lot of very good decisions, and that's part of the reason why we've done so well recently.
"We've made some incredible first-innings scores to put us into a position to put the opposition under pressure.
"On this occasion, we weren't good enough to do that."
England began this three-match series four days ago after four months away from Test cricket, and Flower concedes a break of that length is inevitably a mixed blessing.
"It might be fair to say that the lay-off we've had probably means people aren't quite up to speed as we usually are," he said.
"But we needed that break. The players needed a mental and physical break - and you can't have it all ways.
"Our challenge now is to get up to speed for the second Test."
There is no other option if England are to stay in with a chance of winning this series, something Flower still believes they are capable of doing, starting in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
"One of the exciting things is that there are two Tests left, so we can still win the series," he said.
"I'd much rather be 1-0 up standing here. But that's not the case - we're dealing in the real world and we're one down.
"It's going to take a lot of great cricket to ensure firstly that we get up level with them, and then see if we can win."