Bresnan injury frustrates Flower
Tim Bresnan’s injury-enforced absence at Old Trafford is a regrettable turn of events for England team director Andy Flower - because the Yorkshire seamer needs more Test cricket, not less.
Bresnan has been replaced in a 12-man squad by Ryan Sidebottom for the second npower Test at Old Trafford, which starts on Friday, after suffering a stress fracture to his left foot in the eight-wicket victory England completed yesterday at Lord’s.
There, Bresnan finished with match figures of 4-169 against opponents who pushed England deep into the final day - and much harder than most expected.
The consensus was that Bresnan failed to do his talents justice on his return to Test cricket after his starring role in England’s ICC World Twenty20-winning campaign last month.
Flower does not refute that impression but cites much mitigation - the difficulty in adapting skills from Twenty20’s cross-seam, slower-ball and wide-angle tactics to more conventional fast-medium - and rues the timing of Bresnan’s injury.
“He and I have discussed it at length, and it is no mystery,” Flower said of Bresnan’s teething problems, back in the five-day format.
“But I will say this before I talk about it - Tim Bresnan has improved his cricket in all sorts of ways over the last 12 months and he was a very important part of our Twenty20 win out in the West Indies.
“He showed a lot of skill when he bowled and nous - he made very good decisions under pressure, and I thought he was very calm.”
Bresnan also impressed with his batting - at number seven, often a critical position in Twenty20 cricket - and Flower added: “He has had a really positive effect on the England cricket side.
“He is also a great man to have around. He has a good sense of humour and is well loved in the side.”
It is all the more disappointing for Flower then that Bresnan will not be able to get back on the bike in Manchester.
Notably, it would have been an opportunity to correct Bresnan’s Twenty20 habit of going wide on the crease in delivery.
“He had a tricky Test match in that some of the habits he picked up playing the very short form of the game weren’t necessarily great habits for Test cricket, and it’s just going to take a while to iron those out.
“I think it was pretty obvious, and I think he will need to have a look at that and iron that out with his bowling coach.
“He will be fine. But it is a real pity that he has picked up this injury, because I was looking forward to seeing how he performed in Manchester on a bouncy wicket and seeing how quickly he could adapt back into being a Test bowler. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”
Flower does not anticipate Bresnan’s injury will keep him out too long, because it has been diagnosed very early.
In his absence, though, if England persist with a four-man attack at Old Trafford - and that is far from certain - Sidebottom will face a straight fight with the uncapped Ajmal Shahzad for the third seamer’s role.
True to type, Flower has given nothing away about who may get the nod to bowl behind James Anderson and Steven Finn, who came in at Lord’s in place of the rested Stuart Broad but ended up with nine wickets in the match and the man-of-the-match award.
Finn’s Middlesex team-mate Andrew Strauss also excelled at Lord’s with 83 and 82 as he returned to lead the Test side after missing the tour of Bangladesh.
Flower is delighted to have Strauss back and believes he will soon take the captaincy in his stride again.
“He has been playing county cricket for a while and hasn’t been captain, and it will take a little bit of time to get back up to speed,” said Flower.
“But Andrew Strauss is a very fine leader and whenever he stands up in that changing room and speaks he is very impressive, so we are thankful to have him back.”
Broad, meanwhile, has made it clear he would prefer to have played at Lord’s and Old Trafford rather than undertake a short period of ‘intensive strengthening’ work on his still narrow 6ft 4in frame.
Flower said: “I would have been disappointed if he had been happy about missing out on playing for England. But he handled it very maturely when I spoke to him.
“He is a smart young man and he acknowledged there and then that he understood the reasons why. He will maximise the opportunity to get the specialist strength training.
“There are some areas (of his body) that have been identified, but it is general strengthening with a view to the long term.”