Flower demands better next time
Andrew Strauss’ side yesterday suffered their first Test series loss for almost three years with a 72-run setback at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
They had performed admirably to leave a victory target of 145, but were bowled out for 72 - their lowest total versus Pakistan - with left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman returning international-best figures of 6-25.
It was an extraordinary turnaround from earlier in the game when Stuart Broad’s four wickets limited the designated hosts to 257 all out before he struck an unbeaten 58 to secure a first-innings lead of 70.
“It was a wake-up call no one wanted to get - not to that degree,” said Flower. “We realise that we haven’t been very skilful in dealing with that type of cricket.”
“We expect to learn and learn quickly - and that is a big part of our job, of my job,” he added. “I thought in the first innings some of our batsmen did an excellent job.
“(Jonathan) Trott and (Alastair) Cook were outstanding in that partnership of 139. Broad was outstanding; he played an aggressive, courageous knock to give us the lead - that was a match-turning performance from him both with ball and bat. But yes, (there were) familiar mistakes. We need our batsmen to learn - very obviously.”
England lost all 10 second-innings wickets to spin with Saeed Ajmal, their nemesis at Dubai, claiming 3-22.
“We didn’t put any pressure on their bowlers in the second innings. We allowed them to bowl and create pressure,” Flower admitted. “In saying that, the conditions to play against quality spinners were difficult - and we weren’t good enough.”
“We’re very proud of representing our country. We take our job very seriously and we all feel responsible for this result. It’s also our job to get it right,” he added.
“Yesterday was tough watching for anyone who loves England cricket. The guys played some really good cricket to get us into that position to chase a total of 145 to win a Test.
“It’s exactly the sort of position you want to be in. But we weren’t good enough to deal with their spinners; we weren’t skilful enough and we didn’t deal with the pressure well enough - and I think we have to face up to those facts.”
It was all the more disappointing for Flower, whose decision to recall Monty Panesar after two and a half years out of the side was justified by the left-arm spinner’s 6-62 in Pakistan’s second-innings 214.
“Yesterday was very poor. The three days preceding that were pretty good,” he continued. “We put ourselves in a good position where we could have won the Test, but then performed very badly with the bat to lose it.
“Maybe we dropped a couple of catches in that first innings that were quite important. But other than that, the bowlers and fielders were outstanding - and Monty Panesar was great in his comeback game. But obviously our batting against spin let us down.”
Flower echoed Strauss’ praise for Pakistan yesterday.
“It’s also right to praise the Pakistan team for what they have done,” he said. “They beaten us fair and square. They have beaten us properly in two matches.
“They have fought hard and worked hard at their game, and in a way I’m very happy for them. It’s good for their cricket and it’s good for their country.”
Flower revealed playing two spinners at Abu Dhabi was not a straightforward call, and that he will not be afraid to change the team again as the series returns to Dubai from Friday.
“What probably looks an easy decision in hindsight - to play two spinners - that wasn’t an easy decision at all,” he said.
“It wasn’t the easiest pitch to read, but selection is an important and sometimes tricky part of our job - and going into this third Test, there will be some important decisions to be made.”
He added: “Continuity of selection has been part of our strength, but very obviously we have to pick players who are most adept at dealing with these conditions. Indeed, that is what we have tried to do.
“We have lost the series now - and, of course, we have to go into this third Test and pick what we think is the best XI to try and win the game. If that means making a change here and there, then we won’t be afraid to do that.”
Victory in the Dubai finale will ensure England are still top of the ICC rankings at the start of their two-Test rubber with hosts Sri Lanka from late March.
That series will likely present another trial against spin, as will next winter’s tour of India.
“This is a great challenge for all of us,” Flower said. “The issues are not going to disappear.
“We’ve got another Test; we’ve got a one-day series; we’ve a couple of Twenty20 games and then and we’ve also got Sri Lanka and India before the year is out.
“So we’ve got to face these issues with skill and a bit of courage. Each individual will have to work very hard in working out his method of scoring.”
“We aren’t going to just lie down and give up. That is one option, and it is not an option we are going to take,” he added.
“We’re going to fight as hard as possible. We’re going to fight to learn as quickly as possible, and we expect to go into the third Test and get ourselves into a winning position again.”