Flower backs England to bloom in Ashes

England coach Andy Flower believes his side have what it takes to win the Ashes and, in Andrew Strauss, the right man to captain them to glory.

updated: May 20, 2009 18:07 IST
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England coach Andy Flower believes his side have what it takes to win the Ashes and, in Andrew Strauss, the right man to captain them to glory.

The successful partnership between then coach Duncan Fletcher and skipper Michael Vaughan was a key factor in England's 2005 Ashes triumph on home soil.

But since then relations between the England coach and captain have not always been so smooth.

In January, Kevin Pietersen was stripped of the captaincy after a falling out with Peter Moores that cost the now Lancashire coach his position with the England squad.

Opening batsman Strauss was thrust into the captaincy while Flower, previously Moores's assistant, took temporary charge behind the scenes.

Initially uncertain about whether he wanted to become the England team director, Flower eventually applied for the post and was appointed after overseeing a narrow 1-0 Test series loss and equally close 3-2 one-day campaign victory in the West Indies.

His first series in permanent charge saw England whitewash the West Indies, a 10-wicket first Test win at Lord's followed by an innings and 83 run victory wrapped up here at the Riverside on Monday.

Flower knows England are likely to face a far tougher examination when Australia, who won the last edition of the Ashes 5-0, arrive in Cardiff for their series opener in July.

Character appears to have been the watchword regarding those young players given a Test chance under Flower, with Ravi Bopara making centuries at Lord's and the Riverside against the West Indies while pace bowler Graham Onions took 10 wickets in the two matches.

Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan also impressed with the ball and, with all-rounder Andrew Flintoff waiting in the wings as he recovers from a knee injury, Flower believes England are on track.

"I think we can win the Ashes, yes," said Flower. "We'll have to play very well and we'll have to be strong over a long period of time but, yes, I do believe we can win them."

Flower was renowned for his mental toughness as a player, becoming one of the world's best batsmen despite not being surrounded by top-class performers while playing for Zimbabwe.

In left-handed opener Strauss he believes England have the right man to lead them in their quest to regain the Ashes from Ricky Ponting's side.

"He's rock-solid for us as a leader," said Flower. "He is our front-man and I think the guys are enjoying him as a leader.

"I think he's strong, he's honest, he's fair, he's ambitious and I think he's got a very clear vision of what he wants from the England team."

Flower, who played county cricket in England for Essex, added: "For all those reasons he's got a set of players behind him and the support staff."

And Flower was keen to stress that he saw his working relationship with Strauss as being one of a genuine partnership.

"I've got my own ideas and Strauss has got his ideas and we sit together and talk about it and plan together."

England are now in limited overs mode until the Ashes, starting with Thursday's first of three one-dayers against the West Indies at Headingley.

Then comes the Twenty20 World Cup in England - an event Strauss is missing because he does not believe himself to be a good enough batsman in that form of the game.

Paul Collingwood will captain England in that tournament instead but Flower was confident that Strauss's authority would not have been weakened by the time the Middlesex batsman resumes on-field control come the first Test against Australia, which starts on July 8.

"I don't think it (Strauss's authority) will be diluted at all," Flower said. "I still think ideally you would want one captain for all forms but that wasn't to be. We've just got to make the best of that situation."

In the meantime Flower insisted England would not shirk from the challenges immediately in front of them.

"Yes, we have certain plans in place and thoughts about the Ashes, but our first focus is this one-day series.

"This (Test series win) is just a good start."