Flower bullish over Ashes chances
Andy Flower is confident England can build on their emphatic series whitewash of West Indies by delivering the performances required to regain the Ashes later this summer.
England's newly-appointed team director was delighted with the aggressive manner in which his side, led by captain Andrew Strauss, brushed West Indies aside at the start of a packed summer of international cricket.
Their performances capped an impressive response to being dismissed for 51 in the opening Test at Sabina Park in February, since when they have delivered a series of consistent displays under Flower's stewardship.
They now face seven weeks away from the pressures of Test cricket while they switch attention to the one-day series against West Indies and their World Twenty20 challenge, but Flower is confident they have the resources to win the Ashes when they assemble again for the first Test in Cardiff on July 8.
“I think we can win the Ashes, yes,” said Flower. “We'll have to play very well and we'll have to be strong over a long period of time but, yes, I do believe we can win them.”
Flower's bold statement is based on England's impressive displays in both Tests against West Indies, who, admittedly, presented nothing like the level of competition Australia are likely to offer later this summer.
Ravi Bopara took his chance superbly at number three and won the man-of-the-series award for scoring two centuries, Graham Onions claimed 10 wickets in his first two Tests and Tim Bresnan proved himself to be an impressive swing bowler when conditions suited at Chester-le-Street.
England will also be hopeful of welcoming back Andrew Flintoff into the squad after his knee operation, while Ian Bell and Michael Vaughan will not have given up hope of forcing their way into Flower's Ashes plans.
“The conditions later in the summer are going to be different and we don't know who's going to be fit and who isn't going to be fit, so it's really difficult to talk about the side that's going to play against the Australians," conceded Flower.
“As we all know, there's a hell of a lot cricket before then that we've really got to put our minds and focus onto like the one-day series against West Indies.
"Yes, we have certain plans in place and thoughts about the Ashes, but our first focus is this one-day series.
“I've got my own ideas and Strauss has got his ideas and we sit together and talk about it and plan together. This is just one step forward and I'm very happy with the way the guys have played.
“Bresnan, Bopara and Onions have come in and done very well and I think it's testament to some of the senior players in our side, the established members, who have welcomed them into the changing room and on to the field.
“They made them feel comfortable enough to perform out in the middle and I'm very happy with that aspect of it.”
Flower is also keen to continue the momentum during the three-match one-day series, which begins at Headingley Carnegie tomorrow, and the World Twenty20 to be held on home soil in June.
Essex left-hander Alastair Cook and Durham seamer Onions will return to their counties after being overlooked for the one-day squad, but otherwise the players remain the same for the next six weeks of one-day cricket.
“There's a little bit of turnover but the nucleus of the side is the same, so it's very important to keep the same sort of feel and the results going our way,” stressed Flower.
“This (the Test series win) is just a good start. It's only two Test matches and it's a really good start for us, but I do think we have a good squad and we have a few injuries so there's good competition for places as well for later in the summer.
“We had a little bit of winning momentum after the one-day series in the West Indies and some of the hard work we did there. It's picked up a bit now and there's a lot of cricket now and who knows what's going to happen in the next five or six weeks? But certainly as a Test side it is relevant.”