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Flower: 'I'm ready to make tough team decisions'

Andy Flower, the England head coach, wants his senior batsmen to account for his team's false start to the Ashes and has promised changes for the third Test in Perth.

Andy Flower has promised to alter the team for the Third Test. Picture: PA
Andy Flower has promised to alter the team for the Third Test. Picture: PA

The tourists find themselves 2-0 down with three to play, and needing to overturn almost 80 years of Ashes history if they are to win the urn outright - for the fourth time in succession - from an unpromising position. Three times, in both innings of the series opener in Brisbane and then again at the first attempt in Adelaide, England have failed to even approach a total of 200.

A change is definitely expected in the attack, with at least one of Monty Panesar or Graeme Swann almost certain to be dropped with fast, fiery conditions in Perth in mind, but Flower is not afraid to consider further alterations if he feels they will improve the team.

"We have taken some serious hits but we do have a squad full of people who are determined to turn the ship around, and that's what we must do," he said. "I'm absolutely ready to make tough decisions. There will obviously be changes in Perth.

"Our fans watching back home, I can understand that frustration, absolutely. We were not good enough."

At the end of England's second innings in Adelaide, they had lost half of the 40 wickets taken so far by Australia to leg-side catches. It is an unfathomable statistic in the pinnacle format of cricket, in which off stump is almost always the line of attack by frontline bowlers aiming principally for edges or to get through the batsman's defence for lbw or bowled.

"There's been a disproportionate number of those types of [soft] dismissals, and dismissals on the leg side," admitted Flower. "To improve in the series, we have to address those areas. The balance between attacking shots and ensuring you bat long periods is a challenge for all batsmen at all times, and we haven't got that balance anywhere near right. That's not just the younger batsmen, it's the experienced ones as well. The challenge at Perth will be to assess those conditions accurately and have clarity on the risk/reward that you always have to judge when you're batting."

The most established batsmen are the ones Flower agrees England need to set the example as they go in search of a first win at the WACA in 35 years. "Absolutely, yes," he said. "In these sorts of contests and series, where the intensity levels are high - which makes for very exciting cricket - you need your experienced players, players who have been through similar situations in the past, to come through tough periods and play match-defining innings or produce pressure to create chances with the ball."

England, who flew west to Perth yesterday, will have two days to assess conditions and select and practise accordingly for a match starting - ominously perhaps - on Friday the 13th.

If England opt to go without spinners at all it would mean Swann - a non-negotiable first choice when fit since 2009 - dropping out.

Flower was unsurprisingly unwilling to give too many clues as to his thinking on England's best bowling attack, especially before setting eyes on the pitch at the WACA. A pace-dominated arrangement is a possibility, with Tim Bresnan most likely to return in place of Panesar and tall men Chris Tremlett and the uncapped Boyd Rankin also in the reckoning.

"Graeme Swann has been an outstanding spin bowler for us and been very much a part of England's success, but we'll assess those conditions and see who will best be able to help us take 20 wickets," Flower said. "Bresnan is a strong option for Perth, but the other guys have a shout themselves."

"Past glories mean nothing in this context," he continued. "We've got a big challenge to stop the momentum of the opposition and to get ahead in the game. One of those challenges is getting a first-innings score on the board. Without that, you can't put pressure on the opposition."

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