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.