Andy Flower’s latest Ashes winners will leave others to judge how great they are and simply try to continue beating the opposition in front of them.
On Monday, England delivered a third successive Ashes series victory since Flower took over as coach, a hat-trick last achieved before most of the current squad were born. It is not in captain Alastair Cook’s 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 Chester-le-Street 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 of them nor anyone else in the home camp is about to start proclaiming his 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 are for other people to judge.”
Those International Cricket Council tables no longer top his or his players’ agenda. “Becoming number one in the world was a burning ambition for us, I think because we hadn’t done it before,” he said. “I think we used it quite well as a motivating tool, when we were chasing it a couple of years ago. But I think we’re not quite so hungry for it as we were.”
England are still hungry – as Cook was quick to point out last night – for more success against Australia, victory at The 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 competitive, great for the spectators. Australia have played some good cricket and it’s been a tough one. The scoreline shows we’ve won some key moments. We’ve shown 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,” he said.
“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.”