ENGLAND boss Andrew Flower issued a clear warning to South Africa before Thursday’s final Test in Johannesburg, insisting: “We aren’t going to The Wanderers to draw the series, we’re going there to win this thing 2-0”
After yesterday’s miraculous draw in the third Test at Newlands, Flower (and Ian Bell, right) emerged before 7am London time at the team’s plush new headquarters on Cape Town’s waterfront to say: “We showed a lot of fight to save two Tests here and we won in Durban.
“Fight is something we like to have in our dressing room. It’s integral to what we want. But every England side inherently has fight because the players are representing their country.
“We want to go on to bigger, better things with this team.”
Flower, talking as a “table cloth” of cloud drifted over the magnificent Table Mountain behind him, praised the fantastic four-hour partnership between Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell which provided the platform for England’s great escape yesterday – and he had kind words for No11 bat Graham Onions, who stood firm for the last over, just as he had at Centurion in the first Test.
Flower said: “Colly is a typical British bulldog, he’s great in the dressing room and he has lots of energy. Now he is using his experience and he is battle-hardened to play against the best sides in the world.
“Belly followed his big 100 (140) which helped win the match in Durban with a match-saving innings (78) yesterday It’s good to see him playing with confidence.”
Described as “a legend” by captain Andrew Strauss yesterday, “Bunny” Onions came in for further praise from Flower as he followed his 19-ball last-man-standing epic at Centurion with 17 balls of desperate defiance yesterday. Flower said: “Bunny’s been in some difficult situations and he’s come through it. He’s had very little luck with his bowling on this tour but he’s proved he can bat when it matters.
“That’s testament to him and the thousands of balls he’s had thrown down at him Phil Neal and our coaching staff. Battling our way to two draws, refusing to lose, that has to be great for English cricket.”
The only slight blemish? The form of Kevin Pietersen, who scored 0 and 6 in front of booing fans at Newlands. Flower said: “Everybody has blips in Test cricket. I’m confident he’ll come back. But he contributed to this draw in the field and in the dressing room.
“I wouldn’t say he’s a special case, everybody is a special case in our squad, in the nicest sense of the word. They all have their unique problems but we deal with everybody the same way. I have every confidence in Kevin.”
Of the ball-tampering allegations against Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson, repeated over two days by the South Africans, Flower said: “Our bowlers did nothing wrong. They have great talent at bowling reverse swing on coarse tracks here. We shall continue to do exactly what we always do.
“Has this changed the relationship between the two sides? There’s always a little bit to say to eachother in a series as close as this. But it’s fine. Was it an attempt to unsettle England? You’ll have to ask them that.”