Flower delights in England progress

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Team director Andy Flower hopes a positive end to a difficult winter will stand England in good stead when they tackle sub-continental conditions again later this year.

Andrew Strauss’ side were riding the crest of a wave heading into winter tours of the United Arab Emirates - to face Pakistan - and Sri Lanka, having recently ascended to the summit of the International Cricket Council Test rankings.

They were soon brought back down to earth, though, as a 3-0 defeat in the first rubber was followed up by losing the opening encounter of two on the second trip.

But England showed vast improvement as the winter wore on, epitomised by an eight-wicket victory yesterday that ensured a series draw against Sri Lanka.

Fittingly, that success ensured England remained the world’s number-one ranked side and, reflecting on the past few months, Flower was upbeat - especially with a four-Test series to come in India in November.

“It is great that we have won here and levelled the series,” said Flower. “We have proved to ourselves that we can win in the sub-continent.

“Prior to now, England have not won Test matches in the sub-continent much and it is great to get that win under our belts.

Andy Flower

Team director Andy Flower believes England will see the benefit of a difficult winter when they play a four-Test series against India in November

“It is important for our confidence going into the India series at the end of the year - we have got a very important four-Test series out there.

“To win out here, which is a very tough place to tour, is good for that confidence.”

That England lost four of five Tests this winter when the opposition did not manage to score 400 in any innings is indicative of the struggles the batsmen endured.

Over the course of the matches, however, their improvement was evident, epitomised by each of the top four passing fifty in the first innings of their series-levelling success in Sri Lanka.

Flower admits he took real pleasure from watching his troops adapt and implement changes in their game when the pressure was on.

He added: “The aspects of this win and, indeed, the chase in the first Test against Sri Lanka, when (Jonathan) Trott got a hundred, was that we saw evidence of our players learning some of the lessons we have had to learn.

“We have had a tough time with the bat - that is the very obvious area where we have fallen short. Our bowlers, fielders, focus, commitment and fitness have been outstanding in some really tough conditions.

“But our batting skills against spin have not been good enough. It has been great to see how people have worked hard in the nets at their skills and method, and then taken some of those lessons out into the middle and put them into practice under pressure.

“The result of some of the changes that individuals have made to their games is that we can win in the sub-continent.”

Flower was disappointed England could not enjoy more success this winter given the outstanding performances of their bowlers, but believes the subsequent development of his batsmen will prove beneficial.

“It is a little sad that we were given opportunities to win both series, but were not good enough to take them,” he admitted. “But I think it is exciting for the world’s number-one side to still be learning.

“I think good sides and good players continue to adapt and continue to look to improve and our players are doing that at the moment.”

It is not just the players learning; Flower revealed the winter has been an eye-opening experience for him too.

“I am a young coach and I think this winter has taught me a lot,” he said. “I have made a lot of mistakes, but I think I have identified what they were.

“We have also done some good stuff, so it is a nice way to end and we are looking forward to that flight back home to see our families.”

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