Coach Andy Flower knows a little more about the opposition after England’s tense 14-run victory on Sunday in an epic opening match at Trent Bridge. But one thing he did not need to learn was that the 2013 Australians are made of sterner stuff than many others believed.
Flower knew that fanciful predictions of 5-0 this summer, or even 10-0 to England by the end of an unprecedented schedule of back-to-back Ashes in January, were always well wide of the mark. As he seeks to consolidate an especially hard-earned 1-0 lead when the second Test gets under way on Thursday, he said: “We never for a moment thought that this match or the series would be a walkover.
“I know we hear the odd thing in the media predicting some funny results, but we always knew this would be a tough battle. This is a really good example, and I’m sure it will be a tough fight for the remainder of the series.”
England’s selectors yesterday named an unchanged squad of 13 to go to HQ and Flower is confident that whoever makes the cut will be ready to give his best, whether he sat out Trent Bridge or not.
“It will have taken something out of all the players involved,” he said. “But that’s why our guys work so hard on their fitness, and they are mentally resilient – they have shown that. Over a number of our Test campaigns (they have) come out on top because of that resilience, and I expect them to show that at Lord’s in the second Test.”
England certainly repaid Flower’s faith in the series opener, despite getting into a titanic scrap with the old enemy. “It was a sensational game. I’m very proud of our team, obviously, for the resolve and the resilience they showed. They held their nerves under pressure.
“It was a tense game for five days. It’s obviously great to come out on top, and we can go to Lord’s with real confidence.”
There was barely a moment to draw breath for almost the full five days at Trent Bridge, but Cook’s team answered every call – including, most importantly of course, the last one after Brad Haddin’s heroic 71 helped to take Australia so close to a ground-record chase. “We’re in the business of winning,” Flower added. “They can take a lot of confidence from the way they held themselves, especially as our lead was whittled away. Cook led them well; he showed his strength and calmness as a captain again, not to mention his catching ability.”
Others deserved, and were accorded, particular mention by their coach. Ian Bell’s second-innings century was among his best for England, and James Anderson’s 10-wicket match haul – including Haddin when it mattered most – takes his aggregate at his favourite hunting ground to 49 in seven Tests.
Flower was impressed, all over again: “Jimmy Anderson, particularly, again showed his skill and class. Ian Bell showed real skill but also, I think more importantly, a real determination and courage out there in the middle to bat like he did.”