Andy Flower’s latest Ashes-winners will leave it to others to judge how great they are – and simply try to continue beating the opposition in front of them.
England yesterday delivered a third successive Ashes series victory since Flower took over as team director, a hat-trick last achieved before most of the current squad were born.
It is not in captain Alastair Cook’s living memory, for example, to trace back 32 years to the summer of 1981 and a series dominated by Ian Botham, when England last made it three out of three.
In their surge to a 74-run victory in the fourth Investec Test at the Emirates Durham ICG and a 3-0 series scoreline, this time it was Stuart Broad who ensured the class of 2013 made their own history.
Flower takes pride in those achievements, naturally, under what he describes as the “brilliant” captaincy of Cook. But neither they nor anyone else in the home camp are about to start proclaiming their own prowess.
“This side has had some excellent results recently … (winning last winter) away in India, a number of Ashes series wins,” said Flower.
“But we don’t sit in the dressing-room and talk about this being a great side. That’s for other people to judge. What we talk about is how we’re going to win. Rankings and ratings are for other people to judge.”
England are still hungry – as Cook was quick to point out last night – for more success against Australia, victory at the Kia Oval next week first on a wish-list which already extends to a fourth consecutive Ashes series win this coming winter. That feat has not been achieved by England since they won the last of eight in succession in 1890.
Flower is already formulating plans, but is happy to take a moment or two as well to reflect on an astounding passage of play last night when Broad took six of nine wickets to fall in the final session after Australia had appeared set to chase 299.
“It was a sensational match, and it’s been a great series,” he said. “It’s been very competitive, great for the spectators.
“Australia have played some really good cricket and it’s been a tough one. The scoreline shows we’ve won some very key moments. We’ve shown real resilience.”
That has been a watchword of the Flower era, first alongside Andrew Strauss as captain and then his successor Cook. Nothing in that winning ethos is about to change either.
“We’ve still got another match, and a long series to go in Australia – and we know it will be tough out there as well,” said Flower, pointing out already that England will need to surpass themselves Down Under. “We are prepared for that. It will be a bigger challenge. It’s always a very tough series out there.
“South Africa, who are an outstanding side, went there recently and nearly lost to a very similar team to the one we are playing now. Conditions will be different. But the India series is a good example of adapting to very different conditions, and we’ll need to do that in Australia if we are to thrive out there.”
Before then, and even at the Oval next week, England and their team director do have a chance to live in the moment.
“It was nice being part of that afternoon session where Broad and Cook turned things around for us,” Flower said. “Cook’s captaincy has been excellent, strong in the dressing room and out in the field.
“He made some decisions that turned the game … bringing on (Tim) Bresnan, who got (David) Warner out straight away.”
Cook has had a quiet series, by his very high standards, with the bat – but not, according to Flower, as a leader.
“As a Test captain he is still a young man but he has led the side brilliantly,” he added. “He’s a strong leader and he’s made some really good decisions in this Test series.”
Others – James Anderson at Trent Bridge, Ian Bell throughout, and Broad at Durham – have also excelled.
Flower may still baulk a little at that word “great”, but other adjectival praise flows relatively freely.
“Broad was outstanding,” he said. “He showed real flair and competitiveness and nous and heart. Those are all great qualities that reside in some of these very fine players.”
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