Flower talks up rock-solid Strauss

By Ed Osmond

CHESTER-LE-STREET, England (Reuters) - England coach Andy Flower was keen to praise his captain Andrew Strauss as thoughts turned to the Ashes series against Australia.

Strauss led England to an emphatic series victory over West Indies Monday, their last test cricket before the battle with Ricky Ponting's Australians begins in July.

"Strauss is a very good leader," Flower told reporters. "He is rock-solid for us. He is our front man and the guys enjoy playing for him."

Strauss took the job in January following the sudden departures of coach Peter Moores and captain Kevin Pietersen and reports of dressing-room unrest.

"He is strong, honest, fair, ambitious and with a clear vision of what he wants for the England team," Flower said.

England lost a tight test series in the Caribbean under Strauss's leadership and Flower was pleased by the way the team bounced back on home soil.

"We've come back well from the West Indies," he said. "This is just a really good start to the summer."

Flower praised the form of young batsman Ravi Bopara who scored three centuries in a row against West Indies occupying the number three position in the order, which has long been a problem for England.

"It has been a brilliant start by Ravi," Flower said. "He has handled the challenges confidently, calmly and with a lot of skill. He is well equipped to bat anywhere in the order but we haven't decided on our team to play Australia yet."

Flower said he had started thinking about plans for the Ashes but was first keen to concentrate on the one-day series against West Indies and next month's World Twenty20.

"Certainly as a test side our form is relevant," he said. "Conditions later in the summer will be very different and we don't know who will be fit.

"I do think we have a really good squad with good options. I think we can win the Ashes but we will have to play very well and be strong over a long period of time."

The first test against Australia starts in Cardiff on July 8.

(Editing by Ken Ferris

Article Published: 19/05/2009