Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Prior's big month

These are a crucial few weeks for Matt Prior. After a harrowing two Tests, in which his stock regressed alarmingly, he has had a reasonable start to the one-day series with bat and gloves, taking several fine catches. The trouble is, his impact at the top of the order has been limited to a few breezy cameos ended by rash, injudicious shots.

After 18 ODIs batting in the top order – normally opening – Prior’s average is a meagre 23. Worse, his strike-rate is just 71, hardly Gilchrist-esuqe. On 11 occasions, he has reached 19 but, unlike other aggressive openers, he has yet to play anything like a match-defining innings. Against high-class swing bowling, Prior appears to have problems, as illustrated by a pair of torturous innings against the second new-ball in the Tests.

This, compounded by wicket-keeping that many feel is the wrong side of acceptable at international level, regardless of his batting aptitude, means his place is under real pressure. Tim Ambrose was released from Sussex because, although his wicket-keeping was perceived to be superior to Prior’s, his batting was not as good, yet he has been in brilliant form in all cricket this campaign; in ODIs, he would be an excellent option in the middle order for ODIs and Tests alike. Flavour of the month Phil Mustard’s belligerent hitting for Durham opening the innings would surely be a better option to Prior if the selectors were keen for their keeper to open in limited-overs cricket, while James Foster and Chris Read also have good cases for selection.

But Prior will be granted the next four one-dayers and the Twenty20 World Cup with which to prove he has the batting and keeping ability to thrive at international level. If he fails, his Test place could go too – and he will go down as a man who impressed fleetingly then, like Geraint Jones before him but at a much faster rate, did not deliver sufficiently with bat or gloves.

7 comments:

Richard Lake said...

I was critical of Prior after the test series (Campaign for Real Wicket-keepers), but have been very impressed with him so far in the One Dayers.

His keeping has been up to scratch. The catch off to get rid of Dhoni (or possibly Dravid) in the first game was superb (standing up to Mascarahnas down legside) and he has been a focal point for a very energentic England performance in the field.

As for his opening, he has made a number of starts, but has perished each time trying to force the game, as Cook is in control. He's ensured that we haven't become bogged down. I'd be surprised if his strike rate in this series was as low as 70.

I'd agree that he needs to go on to a bigger score in the near future - hopefully today. However, as far as fulfilling his role in the team, he's doing a fine job.

Nick Gammons said...

I have never been a fan of Prior's, but was willing to give him a fair chance. Though he has been better in this ODI series he has still been no more than adequate.

His batting has not been good enough as the aggressive opener, though his keeping has improved from his appalling Test series against India.

He will have to play extremely well in the remaining four matches of this series and the Twenty20 World Cup to retain his place for the tours.

Even if he does so, I don't think he should retain his Test place as his gaffes are too costly.

I would give Ambrose a chance and have Davies as his reserve.

Chrispy said...

I think Prior has been fine in the ODI's so far. He is there to score brezy runs. 34 off 40 could be seen as him doing his job. He got out again in the 30's they said on SKY but look at the bigger picture the score was 76-1, he is there to attack, he was out to an aggressive shot. He was doing what was asked off him and taking the pressure off Cook who was allowed to get in comfortably in all the games so far and it takes the pressure off number 3, Ian Bell, who has blossomed coming in under less pressure created by a poor run rate. As I said I think he is doing fine in the ODI's. And while Mustard and co may be scoring well in domestic cricket, the step up is huge as has been shown on many previous occassions and Prior's domestic average last season beat everyone elses by a way. It's not so easy to score at more than a run a ball at the top of the order in Internationals.

Tim said...

Chris - Prior actually only averaged 16 opening in the FP Trophy last season, though his first-class record, as you say, was better than all he candidates.

The problem with him is his dismissals are rather brainless (today was a case in point) and his shot selection can let him down. If he doesn't improve by the end of the Twenty20 I'd be tempted to drop him.

Richard Lake said...

Not sure that today's was brainless, as playing shots like that is his job at the top of the order. It quickly appeared worse as Cook and Bell missed straight ones and we were three down. However, he is opening to chance his arm at playing big shots at teh start of the innings. It's not always going to come off.

Chrispy said...

Yes, 46.7 which was 20 better than Read I believe. I believe he is currently averaging 26 at about a s/r of 85 since his return to the England ODI side, not great, but I think we need to give him time to grow into the role like Bell has, and I still think a large part of Cook and Bell's success is down to Prior taking the pressure off with quick runs.

And his wicket keeping so far in this ODI series can not be faulted, which for most people is the most important thing. Problem is people expect Gilchrist when he opens and 100's, when they should prehaps be thinking a run a ball 50 is a big success. The dismissal yesterday was not great but he was trying to take advantage of the powerplays as is his job. If England had wanted to just knock off the runs slowly Bell would have opened. Pietersen and Flintoff were the brainless two imho. We were 3 and 4 down when they played their rash shots, which soon led to a crisis at 4 and 5 down.

The big problem was I never expected Flintoff to do anything other than offer up an easy wicket. How he was above Shah and Bopara, especially in that situation, I shall never know.

Mustard looks good with the bat at county level just as Prior did. It isn't always the same at International level. You are facing five great bowlers more often than not, not one decent bowler and a couple of trundlers. We can't keep changing our wicket keeper. We are winning with him in the side so I think we should and shall persevere.

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