- The Ashes
Flower set for England talks
England team director Andy Flower will meet with the incoming managing director of England cricket, Paul Downton, in Sydney over the New Year to plot a way forward for the team after their disastrous tour of Australia, which reached a new nadir in Melbourne as they threw away a position of strength with two days of awful cricket to lose by eight wickets.
However, Flower reiterated that he has the hunger to continue in his role beyond the final Test of this series. Flower is no longer directly involved in the one-day and Twenty20 set-ups having handed that role to Ashley Giles last year - although remains in overall control of all senior England men's sides - so if he was to stay on as team director his next hands-on duties would come in June when England face Sri Lanka before the visit of India for a five-Test series.
"Certainly I examine my role in the tour. I ask myself tough questions, but my focus at the moment is the Sydney Test match" he said in Melbourne. "Paul Downton the new managing director has arrived in Australia and I'll be meeting with him in Sydney.
"We'll talk about the leadership of the national team with regards to the coaching position. I'm very motivated to contribute to English cricket and that's what I'm going to do."
Flower wanted Swann to finish tour
- Andy Flower said he would have liked Graeme Swann to complete the Ashes tour before retiring but said the offspinner could leave "very proudly."
Swann made his surprise move before the Boxing Day Test, saying his troublesome elbow would not allow him to continue and he did not want to hang around for a send-off.
"Graeme Swann has done an outstanding job for England over the last six or so years," Flower said."I think he's the seventh-highest Test wicket-taker in English history. To do that over 60 Test matches is a great effort, and he's been a huge part of our success over the last few years.
"I've been very proud to have had him in the side, and I know he can retire very proudly.In saying that, I would have liked him to have seen the tour out."
Flower also had no doubt over whether Alastair Cook was still the right captain: "Yes, he is. Alastair Cook has captained six Test series for England, and this is the first series loss he's had. But this is a very challenging time for any leader. For Alastair and me, it's certainly in that bracket. Out of challenging times, sometimes we can grow significantly.
England's third-day implosion at the MCG, where they went from none for 65 in their second innings - a lead of 116 - to 179 all out left Australia needing 231 for victory and when the visitors dropped early catches on the fourth morning the result was sealed. Only two England batsmen passed fifty in the Test - Cook and Kevin Pietersen - in a continuation of the almost complete loss of batting form that has struck the touring squad.
"The guys are fighting. Not fighting well enough," Flower said "Our batting over the four Tests has generally let us down. We are all responsible for this result, the management staff as well as the players.
"We don't want people to accept losses too easily. But equally sometimes you have to accept the fact you've been outplayed. I don't believe we should be totally distraught about where we are. Now we're faced with one chance in Sydney to redeem ourselves to a small extent."
Flower added that he expected changes to the side for the New Year Test at the SCG and appeared to stop short of guaranteeing Jonny Baristow his place after the wicketkeeper endured a tough second innings in Melbourne where he missed two chances after his batting was exposed by the pace of Mitchell Johnson
"He's a young man who's played 13 Test matches," Flower said. "He's still learning as a wicketkeeper/batsman and I hope when he gets another chance he'll do oustandingly well. I would imagine there will be one or two changes for the Sydney Test."
Among the changes mooted are Test debuts for Scott Borthwick, the Durham legspinning allrounder who was added to the squad after Graeme Swann retirement, and Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo