Andy Flower rejects the suggestion that England paid for complacency in their drawn Test series against New Zealand.
Alastair Cook’s team had to fight to the very last ball, with nine wickets down, to secure even the solace of a 0-0 stalemate at Eden Park on Tuesday.
It was an uplifting finale for England, and deflation for their hosts, but will not erase memories of a largely off-colour performance from the tourists over three Tests. Faulty batting in the first innings, in both Dunedin and Auckland, cost England in the first and final matches.
Rain intervened to prevent a result in the first two Tests, but only England’s redoubtable determination – Matt Prior in particular with an unbeaten second-innings 110, 183 runs in the match altogether and five catches behind the wicket – kept the series level yesterday.
Mutterings of complacency have been aired by observers almost since before the first ball was bowled against hosts ranked six places below England in the ICC Test table.
The grumbles gathered volume after a sticky start in Dunedin and were at their loudest perhaps by the time England began Tuesday needing to eke out six wickets to prevent a first defeat in New Zealand since 1983-84.
Flower, however, is a renowned hard task-master and is having none of that theory.
“There was no complacency in our camp at all – none whatsoever,” he said.
“Your reference to the media talking about the fact we should win easily, or comfortably, is probably where you draw that information from.
“It’s certainly not within our dressing room. We knew when we came here we had a real fight on our hands, and we prepared for that.
“We respect the New Zealand cricket team.”
Flower does not deny England fell short over the past month of the standards that were set, for example, in their historic series victory in India before Christmas.
He is looking forward already, though, to setting the record straight in two home Tests against the Kiwis at Lord’s and Headingley in May.
“We have not played great cricket out here in New Zealand,” he admitted. “But I would say New Zealand have played well. Their bowlers swung the ball continually, and it should make for an interesting series.”
England’s durability to salvage a draw with nine wickets down is no rarity in Flower’s reign, after three similar great escapes in 2009 – against Australia and South Africa.
“It’s great to have close games,” he said. “It’s really good for the public and exciting for us. What I would like to see is the same sort of determination, same sort of skill, shown at the start of games – then we can get into winning positions more often.”