ENGLAND coach Andy Flower has few worries as the Ashes hove into view. Results have been good and the team is very settled. Yet there are one or two issues that will be playing on his mind with five weeks to go until the first Test.
First, the players need to adjust their mindsets after finishing the summer with a clutch of one-day internationals. It’s now all about Test cricket and Flower will be keen to focus minds on the task in hand. Last time in Australia they got stuffed; he’ll be telling them, ‘That won’t happen again’. I imagine that was one of the motivations behind the recent boot camp.
Second, and far more significant, is the conspicuous need for major improvements from two players: Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen. Both batsmen have been short of form for some time and must be using the next month or so to hone their games. I’m sure Flower and Graham Gooch will be really working hard with those two – and if not they should be.
Cook should be practising his technique and tightening up his decision making – which shots to go for and which ones to leave.
Pietersen, meanwhile, is in Natal, South Africa, getting some much-needed game time. He has played little competitive cricket due to injury and the conditions over there will pose a decent challenge, as they are often not that conducive to batting.
I expect them both to start the first Test, although Jonathan Trott is a more than able deputy should Flower want to make a change. Trott may not be flamboyant but he is very effective and has been one of the successes of the year. The only issue with promoting him might be that there are few as good as him at batting at No3.
The third and final concern is if something happened to Graeme Swann. In my view he is the best bowler on either side, is of the highest class and it has been terrific to watch his development. I hate to worry about injuries but it could happen.
England are better equipped if they lose a seamer, because Tim Bresnan could come in for James Anderson or Stuart Broad. If Swann is out it’s Monty Panesar. He is an excellent selection and the best of the other spinners, but they need to be working him pretty hard to make sure he’s ready just in case.