Robinson bullish over Prior fitness
Sussex 355 (Joyce 164*, Adams 5-65) and 198 for 2 (Nash 86) drew with Nottinghamshire 452 (Patel 156, Magoffin 4-110) and 336 for 4 dec. (Hales 167)
Matt Prior and Stuart Broad got the chance to stretch their legs ahead of Wednesday's England Test squad announcement with rain doing enough to ensure there was nothing more than handshakes after 56 overs of play on day four.
Broad, England luggage in tow, looked nonplussed as he headed off after stumps, 10 economical overs and two wickets in the bag. He has little to worry about as one of England's better performers in Australia. But Matt Prior, who lost the gloves to Jonny Bairstow for the fourth and fifth Ashes Test and had not kept in a first-class game since the December 16, might be a bit cautious.
But Sussex head coach Mark Robinson is confident that Prior would be mentally and physically ready to make the XI for the first Test against Sri Lanka.
"He's in good nick and he's batting well and in a good place," Robinson said. "Keeping wise, he got better and better through the game."
"I tell you what, I'd want him stood next to me in a first England Test at Lord's because he's ready. He's a tough competitor and when he's like this, you want him in the team. I'd have no qualms putting him in."
In this match, he has had the gloves for 172 overs, which included a full 96-over stint on day one. He batted well in his first innings of 30, against an international (at one time or another) attack, before succumbing to Broad - an lbw that he may well have reviewed had he the opportunity.
There were only two blemishes against him; the concession of five penalty runs after he diverted the ball onto the helmet behind him and a sharp chance, high to his left, in the 28th over of the first innings. As the game wore on, he crouched and skipped from side to side with great ease.
He had the bonus of an extra hit on day four, looking untroubled by the bowlers or any niggles for 19 runs from 35 balls. His injury has not affected his ability to bat, which has meant he has been able to net with the rest of the team throughout his recovery.
You only need to look at the miles Prior clocked up in the last week to gauge just how determined he is to prove his fitness.
He was originally going to play in Sussex's Championship match against Middlesex as a specialist batsman. But when play was rained off early on the third day, and with no practice facilities at Merchant Taylor's School, he drove down to Eastbourne in the vague hope he might be able to take part in a 2nd XI match. He ended up keeping for 30 overs and, with more rain predicted for day four, decided to drive back to Hove to spend the day working on both parts of his game. He kept tabs on the state of the conditions over the phone and, with nothing more than a delayed start predicted, returned to London with every intention of taking the gloves. Unfortunately, weather spoiled things for the fourth day running.
A call was put in to Bruce French who, to his credit, came to Merchant Taylor's to do a session with Prior. He was back on the road on Thursday to Cardiff and played the following day in the NatWest T20 Blast defeat to Glamorgan, keeping for 20 overs after scoring 39. Further volume and technical work with French, as well as rehab and physiotherapy on Saturday then led into the start of this fixture on Sunday.
He will no doubt be sore tomorrow, but from the evidence of the last four days and the testimony of those around him, he is fit to go and as hungry as ever.
The delayed start took the sting out of this game, even if it was given its edge via some questionable use of social media. "It's a nightmare for coaches" Robinson said, when asked about the use of Twitter, particularly during a match. While talk of Ben Brown's catch to remove Alex Hales had added a heat and passion that is often lacking from the County Championship at this stage in the season, it was ungainly.
A 1:10pm start meant a morning of thumb twiddling and players ambling about the outskirts of the ground. Four overs in, Nash was subject to an lbw appeal from Stuart Broad. He survived and moved to 39 and thus 8,000 first-class career runs. Luke Wells survived his own scare when he mistimed Samit Patel to short midwicket but then moved past 3,000 career runs.
Both seemed to be making their way to a century in an opening standing of 161, before Broad had an evening workout - 10 overs, 2 for 16 - and bowled briskly to take Wells' middle stump out of the ground and tricked Nash into defending a ball and taking his edge. Those were the only two wickets to fall, with Hales' part-time off spin drawing a chance from Rory Hamilton-Brown but he couldn't claim his first wicket in first-class cricket since 2009.