Assured Flower keeps the faith
Team director Andy Flower insists England will not panic as they seek to hold on to their number one Test status at Headingley Carnegie this week.
Andrew Strauss’ side suffered an innings defeat in the first Investec Test against South Africa at the Kia Oval, having been comprehensively outplayed over the final four days of the match.
The stakes are therefore high for England, who will lose their position at the summit of the International Cricket Council’s five-day rankings if they are defeated by the Proteas in either of the two remaining Tests.
Flower, however, will not be panicking - and has no doubts about his players’ resolve either.
“We get ourselves into the right frame of mind by doing the same thing as we have been doing,” he said, an unspoken reference to the many victories England have scored in his and Strauss’ tenure.
“I have every confidence in our players.”
Flower was today at pains to give South Africa due credit, and temper criticism of England.
“They outplayed us and they played outstanding cricket and deserved to win the game,” he said.
“We fought hard and weren’t good enough for that Test. We go again on Thursday.
“South Africa played very good cricket; we played some good cricket in parts, but didn’t capitalise on a great platform in the first innings. On a pitch like that, you need a significant score.
“South Africa bowled well that second morning, and that was where the momentum of that game changed.”
England have lost five of their nine Tests this year, and five out of 10 since going to the top of the world - including a disappointing 3-0 series defeat against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates last winter.
But Flower does not subscribe to a rationale that their number one ranking has made life harder, and had an adverse effect on performance.
“I think you have to look a little deeper than that,” he said.
“The series in the UAE was in different conditions, and we struggled against their two spinners. You can’t compare that to the first Test against South Africa.”
England will return to Flower and Strauss’ mantra for continued self-improvement, and make sure they treat their task at Headingley as they have each of those set before them so far at the highest level.
“We don’t try to prepare as if it’s another game; we try to make every Test special,” said Flower.
“We are constantly looking at improving. We’ve practised hard - each individual has his own method of preparation - and we try to make sure that stands us in good stead.
“You don’t throw that away after one Test. I think we have a group who are very confident, and quite rightly so.
“Sometimes you are outplayed, regardless of your attempts at dismissal or strategy implemented, so you have to give credit to the opposition.
“It would be very hard for me to argue our strategies were successful (at the Kia Oval). But in international sport you’ll have huge ups and downs, and our make-up has to deal with those ups and downs.”