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Page last updated at 14:36 GMT, Sunday, 9 August 2009 15:36 UK

Flower hints at batting changes

Ravi Bopara
Ravi Bopara has struggled in the crucial number three role

England coach Andy Flower hinted that changes might be made to his side's middle order after the crushing fourth Test defeat by Australia at Headingley.

"That was a very bad performance - it was bad from ball one," said Flower.

"We have to think about the middle order. We've got one ton in this series - Andrew Strauss is holding us together - they've got eight.

"Ravi Bopara has had a hard time. He was very confident coming in, but he's taken some knocks."

Essex batsman Bopara cemented his place at number three earlier in the summer with three consecutive centuries against West Indies.

But the 24-year-old has struggled against Australia, scoring 105 runs in seven innings at an average of 15.

England flirted with the idea of playing Warwickshire batsman Jonathan Trott as a sixth batsman in Leeds and he could now replace Bopara in the fifth Test at The Oval, which starts on 20 August.

"When [Bopara] came in and scored three tons he looked good, composed, certainly talented enough, but the jury was still out about whether or not he was a number three," added Flower.

We've got our bad performance out of the way and we've got a pretty good record of coming back after bad performances

England captain Andrew Strauss

"That's still the case. I'm not going to say he's not going to be a top number three, he has lots of talent and he has a very high ceiling. But we'll let the dust settle before making any call on that.

"Trott was the next middle-order player that I, Strauss and the selectors thought would come in - he's in good form, he's been in the set-up before, and everyone has to debut some time."

Despite the innings and 80 run defeat at Headingley, Flower dismissed suggestions England were in disarray with one deciding Test to play.

"I don't want to look back and pick every single decision we made to pieces, we made a selection to win the game," he said.

"I don't think we're in disarray, we're 1-1 with a chance to win. Let's let this poor result settle and then we'll make decisions.

"It'll be a good Test wicket at The Oval, if we play really well, we'll win the game. We took 20 wickets at Lord's on a good deck, we can do it again."


Flower said Andrew Flintoff, who missed the fourth Test with a knee injury, will see a specialist on Monday to asses his fitness.

"If he's there it'll be great to have a world-class all-rounder around, if not we'll have to do it without him," said Flower.

"I don't want to put a percentage on his fitness, but he must be ready to bowl at least 15 overs a day."

England captain Strauss, meanwhile, is confident his side can recover to regain the Ashes, with or without Flintoff in the side.

Strauss said: "We didn't really turn up in this game and it's pretty disappointing. When you're bowled out for 102 in the first session you're always struggling to claw the game back.

"So we've got to recover as a batting unit and figure out where we went wrong and make sure we don't repeat the mistakes at The Oval.

"It certainly wasn't a 450 wicket, so both the batters and the bowlers didn't acquit themselves quite as well as we could have done, but we've got to take it on the chin.

"We've got our bad performance out of the way hopefully and we've got a pretty good record of coming back after poor performances, and if we win at The Oval we still win the Ashes.

"We're hopeful 'Freddie' will be fit to play at The Oval, but we'll have to see a lot closer to the time.

"A lot of people would have settled for 1-1 going into the final match at the start of the series.

"It's a massive game of cricket and we've got a few days to get over what's happened here and turn our attention to putting in a really big performance to win that urn."

Strauss added his side might review the practice of playing football before the start of play in light of Matt Prior's injury scare at Headingley, which caused chaos in the England ranks.

"It's something we need to look at," said Strauss. "If football's affecting our chances of having 11 fit players it's obviously an issue."

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see also
Aussies win to level Ashes series
09 Aug 09 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
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Dismal England face heavy defeat
08 Aug 09 |  England
Australia on top as England slump
07 Aug 09 |  Australia
Classic Ashes clashes: Headingley
04 Aug 09 |  England
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket
Australia in England 2009
20 Sep 09 |  England

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