Notts v Sussex, County Championship, Trent Bridge May 20, 2008

Prior rescues Sussex with fighting century

John Ward at Trent Bridge

Nottinghamshire 46 for 2 (Voges 19*, Wagh 5*) trail Sussex 277 (Prior 131) by 231 runs

Matt Prior: counterattacking performance to rescue the champions © Getty Images

The England selectors rarely forgive their discarded wicketkeepers, especially those whose glovework has been embarrassing, but Matt Prior clearly does not intend to go gentle into the not-so-good night. On the opening day of Sussex's crucial match at Trent Bridge, he rescued his team from disaster with a fighting century after another destructive new-ball spell from Darren Pattinson, enabling his team to finish the first day on fairly even terms.

This is a key match in Division One, with Nottinghamshire, the current log leaders, hosting Sussex, the reigning champions. The visitors won the toss and decided to bat, though within an hour they were probably regretting it.

Chris Nash and Carl Hopkinson opened against the now highly respected new-ball pairing of Charlie Shreck and Pattinson. They began well, with Nash sweetly driving two boundaries through the covers off Pattinson's opening over. In the bowler's next over, another full-length delivery enticed him - but this was the decoy, and he played it on; out for 13, and Sussex were 17 for 1.

Sussex's early tribulations were caused by a mixture of good but not overwhelming bowling, and faulty batting. Michael Yardy (0) half-heartedly drove at a ball moving away from him and edged to the keeper; Hopkinson (12) skied a cramped pull to mid-on; and then Chris Adams (0) lunged outside the off stump and was superbly caught by the flying Swann - Graeme - at first slip. Sussex had plunged to 33 for 4, and three of the scalps went to Pattinson.

Murray Goodwin and Prior steadied the ship, though most of their runs came through boundaries and few through keeping the score ticking over by rotating the strike. Their team-mates were just beginning to relax as the total doubled to 66, when Goodwin swatted a short ball straight to backward point. He was followed by Luke Wright (7), driving loosely to cover, and just before lunch Sussex were in deep trouble at 74 for 6.

For Prior, the buck stopped there. Bogged down after the departure of Goodwin and almost run out backing up too far, he took control again during the afternoon and batted with increasing authority, scoring most of his runs square of the wicket with pulls, cuts and cover drives. Robin Martin-Jenkins proved the ideal partner, content to play second fiddle until he tried to swing Swann over midwicket for six and skied the ball to cover for 44. The partnership realized a vital 142 runs.

Prior's century came with a trademark cut to the point boundary, off 115 balls. He scored 99 runs during the afternoon session, and found another determined partner in Jason Lewry, who played some impressive strokes for a No. 10, including a six over midwicket off Swann, as the pair put on 47 together.

Prior finally fell for 131 (174 balls, 19 fours), bowled behind his legs trying to sweep Swann, while Lewry was stumped and the innings closed for 277, a total that looked unlikely at lunchtime. Pattinson, less effective when the ball grew older, had his figures spoiled by Prior and finished with 3 for 77, while Swann had 3 for 52.

When the home side went in, they soon had a struggle of their own. The openers both fell relatively cheaply, Matt Wood (6) playing across a straight ball from Lewry, while Will Jefferson's poor run continued as he tried too late to shoulder arms and played on to Martin-Jenkins for 14 (25 for 2). Things would have been worse still had Mark Wagh not been dropped twice in the region of gully and backward point; as it was, the match finished very nicely balanced with a result likely.