Chester-le-Street: Andy Flower said on Tuesday that England captain Alastair Cook deserved credit for his tactics after leading the side to an Ashes series win over Australia, despite criticism of his field placings and declarations.
Cook has enjoyed some notable triumphs as England captain since taking over from his now retired former opening partner Andrew Strauss, including a series win in India last year and now steering the side to an unbeatable 3-0 lead over Australia with a Test to spare.
The 28-year-old Cook has, however, been criticised by former players, notably Australia greats Ian Chappell and Shane Warne, for being an excessively cautious captain when it comes to declarations and for a lack of imagination in his field placings.
The Essex left-hander's style has been contrasted unfavourably with the bold approach of Australia captain Michael Clarke. England paceman Stuart Broad inevitably hogged most of Tuesday's headlines after a stunning spell of six wickets for 20 runs in 45 balls on Monday saw him to Test-best match figures of 11 for 121.
But England coach Flower highlighted Cook's role in bringing back Tim Bresnan on Monday's fourth afternoon, with the Yorkshire seamer taking the key wicket of well-set opener David Warner soon afterwards. "It was nice being part of that afternoon session where Broad and Cook turned things around for us," said Flower.
"Cook's captaincy has been excellent: strong in the dressing room and out in the field. "He made some decisions that turned the game... bringing on Bresnan, who got Warner straight away. "He's been maligned in some areas, I've heard. I'm not sure what is said off the field but we judge ourselves by our own standards," the former Zimbabwe batsman added.
"As a Test captain he is still a young man but he has led the side brilliantly. He's a strong leader and he's made some really good decisions in this Test series." Flower conceded that England, who will be trying for their first 4-0 Ashes win at The Oval in south London next week, had not always been at the top of their game this series but hailed their ability to win key moments in matches.
"I don't think we've played our best cricket in this series. But what we have done is been resilient, held ourselves well in pressure situations," he said. "Broad was outstanding (at Chester-le-Street). He showed real flair and competitiveness and nous and heart. "They are all great qualities that reside in some of these very fine players.
"They've played some really good cricket in the series. It's been a tough, competitive series and a scoreline of 3-0 shows we have won some very key moments in matches. "We've shown real resilience."
Given their crowded schedule and the fact the series has now been won, there have been suggestions England could "rest and rotate" players for the fifth Test, with fast bowler Chris Tremlett in with a chance of being recalled on his Surrey home ground.
But Flower said: "We'll meet over the next couple of days and talk about a side for the fifth Test, but I can't see us changing much. "We're still representing our country, it's still an Ashes Test and we're determined to win it."