Spin options key for Flower
The presence of James Tredwell and Samit Patel ensures England are fully prepared for all eventualities in Sri Lanka, according to team director Andy Flower.
Kent off-spinner Tredwell and Nottinghamshire all-rounder Patel were among four slow bowlers selected in a 16-man party for the two-Test series in south Asia, which begins on March 26.
After Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar teamed up to good effect, albeit in a losing cause, against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year, Flower was keen to ensure there were plenty of options in the spin department this time around.
Referring initially to Tredwell’s inclusion, he said: “With off-spin being quite an important factor out there, we thought it was important to have back-up to Swann in case he busts a finger the day before a Test match or goes down ill.
“James Tredwell is an experienced cricketer who we know we can rely on and he is good back-up for Swann.
“The fact that we’ve got Samit Patel there, even though he is not a specialist left-arm spinner, (means that) if Monty went down with some sort of problem just before a Test starts, he would provide that angle of attack if needs be. So, that’s how we covered our spinning bases.
“Both types of spin are important, obviously, and we’ve covered both of them with those two cricketers.”
Although his left-arm spin has proven effective for England in limited-overs matches, Patel’s strongest suit is undoubtedly his batting.
“He provides the option of flexibility for us,” added Flower.
“If we really wanted to play three quicks and Swann, then he could bat at six and give you that angle to bowl into the rough. That is a possibility. Everyone in the squad is a serious challenger for a Test place.”
With James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and Tim Bresnan making up an impressive quartet of seamers on this tour, England are certainly well stocked in the bowling department.
However, there can be no doubt that improvement is required with the bat, after they struggled to post significant totals against Pakistan.
Andrew Strauss will be determined to lead by example at the top of the order and has been strongly backed by Flower despite having registered just one century in his previous 28 Test outings.
“All of the specialist batsmen are hungry to score heavily and obviously he’s no different in that regard,” said Flower of his captain.
“I suppose the one difference is that he is the leader and any leader wants to score heavily and lead from the front performance-wise.
“We do know that he is a very fine international cricketer and I expect him to do well in Sri Lanka.
“He’s a very experienced cricketer and very level-headed in his response to both the highs and lows that are associated with playing for England. So I know that he’ll be working hard and smart to get his game in order.
“His role upfront - like (Alastair) Cook’s role, like (Jonathan) Trott’s role and like (Kevin) Pietersen’s - is crucial to us getting big first-innings scores and we are going to need big first-innings scores to win out there.”
Flower takes heart from Strauss’ performance in the final Test against Pakistan at Dubai, where the skipper contributed a battling 56 in the first innings.
“We all realise how important confidence is,” he explained. “He scored some runs towards the end of that last Test series in Pakistan and also, in the last Test, he showed a slightly different method against spin that made him look much more secure against it, I thought.
“Like all of us, to survive and thrive, he has to be adaptable and I thought he showed some of that adaptability in that last Test against Pakistan.
“He’s got two three-day games to get some time in the middle, some runs under his belt, and with all his experience I expect him to do well.”