Will Flower quit after Ashes surrender?

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iol spt dec19 Andy Flower

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Andy Flower began the inquest into Englands awful Ashes campaign without being certain he will be around to plan their bid to regain the urn. Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Andy Flower yesterday began the inquest into England’s awful Ashes campaign without being certain he will be around to plan their bid to regain the urn.

He refused to commit his future beyond the final two Tests of the worst series of his career but has discussed with captain Alastair Cook whether England begin their quest for the next Ashes in 2015 in Melbourne on Boxing Day or simply attempt to avoid a 5-0 humiliation.

Flower and Cook will share their thoughts with new national selector James Whitaker before they settle on the best way forward.

Attention yesterday inevitably focused on the future of the most successful coach in England’s history and Flower said: ‘Obviously I have to plan ahead for the team’s sake but personally I don’t like looking too far ahead and quite frankly there are two Tests left in this series and I want all my focus to be on those.’

The question is whether Flower, who has overseen three Ashes successes, and home and away Test series triumphs over India, has taken England as far as they can go.

‘I’ve got that judgment to make and the ECB have that judgment to make too,’ he added. ‘But what we will be doing is focusing on Melbourne and Sydney. There are two very important Tests to play and we will be looking forward to the challenge of those.’

Flower accepted blame for his part in the debacle of three heavy losses, which resulted in Australia winning the Ashes in front of a half-empty WACA for the first time since they thrashed Duncan Fletcher’s England 5-0 in 2006-07.

‘Absolutely it’s my responsibility and I’m comfortable taking that on,’ said Flower. ‘I have to look at how we prepared and the decisions we made; certainly that I’ve made. So, of course we will reflect on those things and learning from our mistakes is very much part of our ethos of constant improvement. And we need to improve quickly.’

There will be no pressure from the ECB on Flower to step down. He will meet new England managing director Paul Downton before the Sydney Test and the ECB retain full confidence in the man they sought to protect last year by reducing his workload and appointing Ashley Giles as limited-overs coach.

The fact there are only seven Tests next year after this series ends means Flower would have proper time to plan for the next Ashes while Giles leads the build-up to the World Cup early in 2015.

Before then England must stop the Australian juggernaut in the traditional Boxing Day and New Year Tests, with the first big decision to be made concerning wicketkeeper Matt Prior.

The 31-year-old is averaging just 17 in this series after a dreadful summer but what will concern England most is his keeping in Perth, where he missed two stumpings that would have stopped David Warner scoring a century. He also failed to go for a catch given by Chris Rogers that first slip Alastair Cook dropped.

Flower described dropping Prior as a ‘possibility’ but in an example of England’s unusually muddled thinking for this tour he would be replaced by keeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow, who is not the favourite to become Prior’s long-term successor. Jos Buttler, England’s first-choice one-day keeper, is thought of as a better keeper and a more gifted batsman, so it is baffling that he was not considered for this tour ahead of Bairstow.

Elsewhere, England have to make even bigger calls. They want to plan for the future but are wary of the public reaction that a 5-0 defeat would bring and may hesitate to jettison the senior batsmen who took them to the top of the Test rankings.

This, in many ways, is the ideal time to blood Gary Ballance but who steps down? Cook, Ian Bell and Joe Root are certain to play a full role in England’s future, while it would be harsh to drop Michael Carberry.

Which, of course, leaves Kevin Pietersen (left) and whether England believe this is the time to make a bold statement by dropping their under-performing superstar to give Ballance the chance to show that he can join Ben Stokes in providing hope for the future. It is a poser that will dominate the talks between Flower, Cook and Whitaker.

Just as complicated is the bowling, where the hopefully temporary decline of Steven Finn has been a huge problem which England appear no nearer to solving.

If Finn is considered to be too high-risk and Stuart Broad is an injury doubt for the MCG, then Boyd Rankin may get a chance to prove that he deserves to play ahead of Chris Tremlett, who sadly does not look anywhere near reproducing his pivotal bowling from the last Ashes tour.

Plenty of food for thought for Flower. ‘We have been outplayed in all three departments of the game and the result is done but the series is not over,’ he said. ‘There are still many things to play for.’

England’s future starts now. – Daily Mail

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