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  • Eng v NZ, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 5th day

Cook & Flower claim tactics 'vindicated'

George Dobell
May 28, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
James Anderson took the last wicket to draw level with Fred Trueman © Getty Images
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Alastair Cook and Andy Flower insisted their tactics had been "vindicated" after England won the second Test against New Zealand by 247 runs to clinch a 2-0 series victory.

While Cook admitted he endured some nervous moments waiting for the rain to clear, he also defended his decision not to enforce the follow-on and to delay his declaration until after lunch on day four. By then England had a lead of 467 and meteorologists were warning that the fifth day could be severely curtailed by rain.

So it proved, too, with only 45 minutes possible before lunch and play not resuming until 3pm. But it was long enough for England to claim the final four wickets they required to secure victory.

"The result definitely vindicates the decision," Cook said. "There is absolutely no doubt about that at all. To win by 250 runs is a good win and in just over three days cricket effectively, it is an outstanding performance. You are judged as a captain on results. In this game we have won by 250 runs.

"I would not say it was a sleepless night but we were praying for an opportunity to get enough time to go out there and win the game. Clearly, I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was look out the window. We knew rain was about but we thought there would be a few windows of opportunity."

While there was much to celebrate for England - the form and fitness of Graeme Swann, the hostility of Steven Finn and the batting of Joe Root and Cook - one or two areas of concern remain.

The form of Nick Compton, 39 runs in four innings this series, was a disappointment and debate over his position will continue. With Kevin Pietersen back in training and likely to return to the middle order for the Ashes, moving Root to open is one option that is sure to be discussed in the coming weeks.

Neither Cook nor Flower would commit to Compton's selection for the Ashes, but Cook did admit that changing such "an important position" ahead of such high-profile games would constitute "a risk".

"He's struggled in these few Tests, certainly," Flower added. "The Ashes is quite a long way away. Let's allow the dust to settle on this series. Then we'll chat about the line-up and the conditions and the opposition.

"He's got to go away, get back into form and score some heavy runs for Somerset. He goes back into a couple of one-day games. Hopefully the one-day games will be good for him. He can go out and enjoy hitting the ball. That will be the catalyst for him going into the first-class game feeling confident."

Flower, in particular, appeared to take exception to the line of questioning from some media following the game. Talking to the BBC, he said: "I thought it was a very good performance by our side. We won by over 200 runs. Cook scored another hundred. He has 25 Test hundreds; more than Viv Richards or Greg Chappell. Swann is back in form and his elbow has come through surgery recently. The two young Yorkshire guys have had a great game. Finn on a flat deck has bowled outstandingly well. Those are all things that I'd prefer to focus on than some of the negative things you mention."

But both Cook and Flower admitted there were some areas where England could have performed a little better. While Cook referred to criticism of Trott's sedate progress on the third evening, 11 in 69 balls despite England beginning their second innings with a lead of 180, as "nit-picking", Flower accepted that "he could have been more urgent".

"We had a great example of running between the wickets and the right sort of balance between defence and attack and urgency from the two young Yorkshire guys in the first innings," Flower said. "They batted beautifully. Trott could have learned a little from those two. But the following morning he put us in a great position to win the game."

Flower and Cook justified the decision not to enforce the follow-on, believing the wicket would only deteriorate as the match progressed. "We chose to bat again and get well ahead of them," Flower agreed. "We thought we would have enough time on a wearing pitch to take the last 10 wickets and that's how it proved."

The start of the final day was noticeable for Flower remonstrating with the groundstaff to remove the covers more quickly.

"I shouldn't be out there doing the officials' job," Flower said. "It wasn't raining so I'm not sure why the covers weren't being removed. I don't understand why it took so long to get the game started, regardless of the position that we were in. The officials have a responsibility to get the game going when conditions suit and it wasn't raining. The lack of activity was baffling."

But in general, Flower was in the mood to celebrate the encouraging performances of Swann and the two young local batsmen, Root and Jonny Bairstow.

"Swann bowled superbly in the first innings; the ball came out of his hand absolutely beautifully," Flower said. "I didn't actually think he bowled as well in the second innings. I don't think he was quite comfortable with the ball. But he still took 6 for 90 and turned the match our way. I'm very encouraged by the way he's bowling and very happy for him that his elbow has come through surgery as well as it has. He's been really dedicated and disciplined in the way he's rehabilitated his elbow and he seems in better physical condition than he has been for a while.

"Root looks an excellent cricketer. His decision making in the middle; his balance has been excellent so far. It was great to see him get a hundred on his home ground and it was nice to see the enthusiasm and passion the Yorkshire supporters showed Joe.

"It was also great to see Bairstow bat with him. I know how happy Jonny was for Joe to get that 100, which was really nice to see. They are both good young men. Very different characters. But hopefully they will both have very successful England careers."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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