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New Zealand v England: Andy Flower urges tourists to sharpen up

New Zealand v England: Andy Flower calls on his side to sharpen up after a three-wicket loss in their warm-up match in Queenstown

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Andy Flower's side lost their warm-up match in QueenstownPhoto: The Sport Review

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Andy Flower has urged England to sharpen up ahead of the First Test against New Zealand in Dunedin, which starts on Tuesday.

Flower was speaking in the wake of England’s three-wicket defeat by a New Zealand XI in Queenstown on Saturday, identifying a number of aspects which the team can improve upon.

“It was a timely lesson that if you are slightly off your game you can lose to both Test and ‘A’ sides,” England’s Test coach said.

“I hope to see us a lot sharper for the first Test.”

Despite an Ian Bell century which helped England reach 426 in their first innings, the Kiwis chased down an unlikely target of 334 on the final day, following a poor batting performance in the tourists’ second innings.

“It was an excellent game of cricket, but it was not ideal losing it,” added Flower.

“Some of the young New Zealand players played really well and I thought we were sloppy in some areas – poor with the ball in the first innings and there were a couple of soft dismissals.

“Bell and Prior batted beautifully, which augers well for the Test series, and we got better with the ball in the second innings, which was nice to see. There is a little rustiness that we have to work through.”

“One warm-up game isn’t ideal, but it is what we have been given. Our guys have been on the road for almost four months now – those who have played all three forms of the game – and you cannot play constantly for 12 months.”

“Sometimes the preparation schedules are not going to be perfect, so part of the skill of being an international sportsperson is being able to adapt where necessary.”

Flower went on to defend opening batsman Nick Compton, who hit just 22 runs in the warm-up match and has come under pressure from the emergence of 22-year old Joe Root over the winter season.

“Nick did some excellent things in India,” said Flower. “He had some difficult conditions to deal with, like opening against spin on turning pitches and the pressure of playing in India in front of big crowds.”

“I thought he handled himself really well over there, and in the warm-up match here he got 20 in the first innings when the ball was darting around.”

“Let’s see how he goes in the future because I think he is a strong young man with a solid technique.”

With England playing thee back-to-back Test matches in the space of three weeks, Flower recognises the strain that bowlers Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann will likely encounter – the pair have been hampered by injuries in recent months.

“Bowling is a tough profession and the pressures which are put on the body are extreme,” said Flower. “But Stuart’s heel has responded really well to the treatment that he has had, the rest he has been given and he came through the last four-day game really well.”

“He got better and better with the ball and looked in much better rhythm towards the end of the fourth day. We are hopeful that the heel problem he has had will, with consistent treatment, disappear in time.”

“Graeme had serious problems with his bowling elbow four years ago and he had a successful operation. Since then, he has constantly had to bowl with little niggles in that area and he has always managed it well. We hope he will be fully fit for the first Test too.”

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