Flower backs captain Cook after Warne’s Twitter blast

ENGLAND team director Andy Flower has leapt to the defence of captain Alastair Cook following stinging criticism from Australia’s all-time leading wicket-taker Shane Warne.

Cook masterminded Australia’s collapse on day four of the fourth Test in Durham as England moved 3-0 ahead in the series with one match to play.

However, Warne had been critical of the 28-year-old’s leadership, sending a Twitter message to fiancé, the actress Elizabeth Hurley, that the Test could end a day early, writing “if Cook continues to captain like this Australia’s job will be made a lot easier”.

And, in a later tweet, he labelled Cook’s captaincy in the third and fourth Tests “horrible” and his approach “defensive and negative”.

However, Cook and England are on the brink of history having never won four Ashes Tests in a home series and Flower believes his skipper deserves more respect.

“He’s been maligned in some areas, but we judge ourselves by our own standards,” said Flower.

“Cook’s captaincy has been excellent; strong in the dressing room and out in the field. He made some decisions that turned the game, such as bringing on Bresnan, who got Warner straight away.

“As a Test captain he is still a young man but he has led the side brilliantly.

“He’s a strong leader and he has made some really good decisions in this Test series.”

Australia coach Darren Lehmann, meanwhile, believes his players have let down their country this summer.

It’s been 36 years and 18 series since Australia last failed to record a Test win against England and Lehmann deems the current score unacceptable.

“To play for Australia you have to perform to the level that’s actually acceptable for everyone in our team, for the Australian public and for the media,” he said. “At the moment we’re not doing that, so we’ve got to perform to the level that we expect and what the public expect back home.”

COOK’S REIGN

v India (away)
■ Won the series 2-1
v New Zealand (away)
■ Drew three-Test series 0-0
v New Zealand (home)
■ Won both Tests in Ashes warm-up
v Australia (home)
■ Lead 3-0 after four Tests