England v SA, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley August 5, 2012

Selfless Prior remains under the radar

There are other of wicketkeepers in England who are excellent with the gloves, and many also proficient with the bat, but none who combine both disciplines with the ability of England's current gloveman
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It was perhaps fitting that another fine performance from Matt Prior should be overshadowed by events beyond his control. With Kevin Pietersen making a remarkable century, the UK media full of stories of Olympic success and poor weather dousing remaining interest in this Test, it will go largely unrecorded that Prior contributed his second half-century of the series.

This was a typically selfless innings, too. His strike-rate - 76.40 runs per 100 balls - was better, even, than Pietersen's and he only fell when, left with just tail-enders for company, he perished searching for quick runs. Some in that position might have sensed a "not out".

Prior helped England into the lead but it might have been better had he enjoyed more support from the lower-order. Instead Tim Bresnan edged a straight one and Stuart Broad perished to an ugly slog unworthy of one so talented. A supportive 20 might have helped Prior build a lead of 100. Instead they only sneaked in front.

It was a far from untypical display from Prior. Batting at No. 7 he is destined to either come to the crease after the gold rush, with his top-order colleagues having already taken the opportunity to fill their boots, or forced to rebuild with his side under pressure. Either way, and his Test batting average - 42.91 - and his strike-rate - 65.22; the highest in the side - underlines the impression that might well merit selection as a specialist batsman. Bearing in mind his vastly improved keeping over the last couple of years and he has become a highly valued all-round player for England. There is no obvious understudy to him in the English game. Plenty of county keepers can bat; several can keep wicket: few if any combine the disciplines as well as Prior.

But Prior is, it seems, destined to forever play the part of support act. Only once in his 57-match Test career has he been awarded the man of the match and even when he produces outstanding performances - such as his exceptional century against Pakistan at Trent Bridge in 2010 - someone else produces an even more eye-catching performance to capture the headlines. On that occasion it was James Anderson, with 6 for 17 to bowl out Pakistan for just 80. They say that the best keepers often go unnoticed, though, so perhaps such issues will not bother him.

Miracles have occurred before on this ground and perhaps, with South Africa carrying a few injury worries, they may be more vulnerable than normal.

Certainly it was typical that, when asked about Kevin Pietersen's influence on this match and his future in the England side, Prior chose to answer from a collective rather than individual perspective. There was a passive acceptance, however, that Pietersen's future in all forms of the international game remains unclear.

"What makes this team brilliant is 11 players pulling in the same direction," Prior said. "It is a team. No one person has done more than anyone else. To have 11 blokes pulling in the same direction is a very powerful thing. Kevin Pietersen has been a big part of that. Of course you want him in your team. You watch a bloke bat like he has in this game and of course you want him in your team. Who wouldn't? It would be a huge loss and a sad loss, but the important thing is that whoever comes in pulls in the same direction with all 11 of us."

Prior also defended the performance of England's bowlers in the series, insisting that their difficulty in bowling out South Africa was more testament to excellent batting than any fault in the bowling. He also suggested that, on a pitch showing some signs of uneven bounce, that South Africa could yet face a tricky final day.

"At the Oval there were times when our bowlers may have been a bit down on their pace, but in general they have worked really hard and bowled really well," Prior said. "I think we have to take off our hat to the South African batters. They have played really well and they have left the ball really well. They have a class side and they are allowed to play well. But the way Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad bowled today was fantastic. That's what makes tomorrow quite an exciting day: if we can get a couple of early wickets, you never know.

"It's frustrating that it rained. It would have been nice to bowl at them all day, pick up a few wickets and put them under a bit of pressure going into the last day," Prior said. "But one thing I would say is that there are probably only two results possible now: a draw and an England win. For them to know that they have to bat out a day can be quite tough from a mental point of view. We're going to have to come at them very hard in the morning. We're going to need some luck and a lot of skill, but who knows. The ball is still swinging and hopefully, if it is an overcast day, the ball will hoop around."

Bearing in mind the evidence of the series to date it seems unlikely to think that England can rip through South Africa in a session-and-a-half. After all, three of the South African top four are averaging 100 or more and the other is averaging 91. But miracles have occurred before on this ground and perhaps, with South Africa carrying a few injury worries, they may be more vulnerable than normal. In truth, though, you suspect that a less than vintage Test momentarily lit up by one outstanding display of skill will slip into a watery grave on the final day.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sachin_vvsfan on August 6, 2012, 12:55 GMT

    @Robert Cerff sangakara doesn't keep in tests. AB as a batsman is far better than prior but at the moment prior does a decent job with gloves and bat(always scores rapid 60-70, exploits field settings while batting with the tail). But agree with you on whether he is the best .He is definitely not in the leagues of the likes of gilchrist but by default becomes the best as there is no better wicket-keeper batsman currently

  • JG2704 on August 6, 2012, 12:47 GMT

    @Meety on (August 06 2012, 08:43 AM GMT) It looks like that was a bit of indigestion there bud. Not sure about SA - This could be the series where they are solid throughout. If we go 6/1/4 we lessen our chances considerably which would be harsh on JT but we might as well lose 2-0 going all out for the leveller than lose 1-0.

  • JG2704 on August 6, 2012, 12:42 GMT

    @Robert Cerff on (August 06 2012, 10:29 AM GMT) I don't know the exact records of AB or Sanga while keeping but someone posted before on here that Sanga's record isn't too special as a batsman when he has kept in tests. AB is obviously a better batsman but I'm not sure what his record is in tests when keeping wkt.

  • on August 6, 2012, 12:26 GMT

    I like this prior bloke. He's got some batting talent. He is not bad at all with the gloves as well. I still think AB must leave the glove work and just bat. SA must get a wicket keeper for the long term and thats why i think they must give the youngsters a chance. We've got a boy that is playing well and i hope they use him at provincial level and bring him thru.

  • Madselector on August 6, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    "and Stuart Broad perished to an ugly slog unworthy of one so talented." great joke...

  • njr1330 on August 6, 2012, 11:44 GMT

    All this talk of players moving, reminds me of that great Australian, Kepler Wessels; the great West Indian, Brendan Nash; the great New Zealander, Kruger van Wyk; Brendan Julian, the world's only Australian Maori; Dutchman, Tom Cooper (Aus) Dutchman Michael Swart (Aus); Irishman, Trent Johnston (Aus); India's Robin Singh was born in Trinidad. But perhaps the most bizarre... is that both Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes opened the batting for Scotland!

  • Hyderabadi_Nawab on August 6, 2012, 11:23 GMT

    Totally agree with the proposal of a reserve day to make up for lost time - Matt Prior truly an unsung hero, India could definitely use some low profile characters...

  • Bramblefly on August 6, 2012, 11:05 GMT

    @Meety - DP was sale or return. We learned our lesson.

  • on August 6, 2012, 10:53 GMT

    How hard is it for the ICC to allocate a mandatory "reserve" day to make up the overs lost due to rain in a high profile test match such as this. Test cricket needs fewer number of draws to survive the 21st century.

  • Meety on August 6, 2012, 10:37 GMT

    @Bramblefly - well I believe I said "robbed"! So no in-store credit or refunds, we just gave you Darren Pattinson instead! LOL!

  • sachin_vvsfan on August 6, 2012, 12:55 GMT

    @Robert Cerff sangakara doesn't keep in tests. AB as a batsman is far better than prior but at the moment prior does a decent job with gloves and bat(always scores rapid 60-70, exploits field settings while batting with the tail). But agree with you on whether he is the best .He is definitely not in the leagues of the likes of gilchrist but by default becomes the best as there is no better wicket-keeper batsman currently

  • JG2704 on August 6, 2012, 12:47 GMT

    @Meety on (August 06 2012, 08:43 AM GMT) It looks like that was a bit of indigestion there bud. Not sure about SA - This could be the series where they are solid throughout. If we go 6/1/4 we lessen our chances considerably which would be harsh on JT but we might as well lose 2-0 going all out for the leveller than lose 1-0.

  • JG2704 on August 6, 2012, 12:42 GMT

    @Robert Cerff on (August 06 2012, 10:29 AM GMT) I don't know the exact records of AB or Sanga while keeping but someone posted before on here that Sanga's record isn't too special as a batsman when he has kept in tests. AB is obviously a better batsman but I'm not sure what his record is in tests when keeping wkt.

  • on August 6, 2012, 12:26 GMT

    I like this prior bloke. He's got some batting talent. He is not bad at all with the gloves as well. I still think AB must leave the glove work and just bat. SA must get a wicket keeper for the long term and thats why i think they must give the youngsters a chance. We've got a boy that is playing well and i hope they use him at provincial level and bring him thru.

  • Madselector on August 6, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    "and Stuart Broad perished to an ugly slog unworthy of one so talented." great joke...

  • njr1330 on August 6, 2012, 11:44 GMT

    All this talk of players moving, reminds me of that great Australian, Kepler Wessels; the great West Indian, Brendan Nash; the great New Zealander, Kruger van Wyk; Brendan Julian, the world's only Australian Maori; Dutchman, Tom Cooper (Aus) Dutchman Michael Swart (Aus); Irishman, Trent Johnston (Aus); India's Robin Singh was born in Trinidad. But perhaps the most bizarre... is that both Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes opened the batting for Scotland!

  • Hyderabadi_Nawab on August 6, 2012, 11:23 GMT

    Totally agree with the proposal of a reserve day to make up for lost time - Matt Prior truly an unsung hero, India could definitely use some low profile characters...

  • Bramblefly on August 6, 2012, 11:05 GMT

    @Meety - DP was sale or return. We learned our lesson.

  • on August 6, 2012, 10:53 GMT

    How hard is it for the ICC to allocate a mandatory "reserve" day to make up the overs lost due to rain in a high profile test match such as this. Test cricket needs fewer number of draws to survive the 21st century.

  • Meety on August 6, 2012, 10:37 GMT

    @Bramblefly - well I believe I said "robbed"! So no in-store credit or refunds, we just gave you Darren Pattinson instead! LOL!

  • on August 6, 2012, 10:29 GMT

    While I certainly rate Prior as a keeper-batsman... Hardly the best in either or a combination of the two. I think that if forced to choose, that he'd fall into a solid third behind either of Sangakara or AB (I don't rate Dhoni as that great with the gloves)

    That said, he has certainly aided the English cause with a good few innings, and his glove work has certainly improved of late. Hats of to the guy for a good service to his country.

  • anver777 on August 6, 2012, 10:06 GMT

    Batting at no.7 mostly with tailenders & maintaining a 42+ average is a real talent... May be Prior's skill is unnoticed, but i'm sure he will not stop contributing for Eng !!!!

  • Bramblefly on August 6, 2012, 9:11 GMT

    @Meety 08.40 - Too right about Mullaley and McCague. We never got our money back either.

  • Bramblefly on August 6, 2012, 8:53 GMT

    @ Jabulani 06:52am Don't really think you understand England or the relationship with South Africa over the years do you? There's been back and forth immigration and inter-marrying for decades. There was an influx of English background immigrants to England in the eighties and nineties of which schoolboy Prior was one. He came through our system. I doubt he reached his current standard facing chin music from first class South African quicks aged 8 or 9. Thank you for your interest though. England must be doing well.

  • Hardy1 on August 6, 2012, 8:49 GMT

    Damn you rain...here's hoping for an England win & then a classic winner takes all match at Lord's in the final Test. As for Prior, quite obviously the best Test wicketkeeper-batsman in the game as far as I'm concerned, & a big part of England's rise to the top either finishing innings or rebuilding them under pressure with the lower order.

  • Meety on August 6, 2012, 8:43 GMT

    @JG2704 - I think that England can actually draw this series with a win at Lords. I think the Saffas have at least one collapse in them before the series is over. Yes, a breakdown is the last thing the Saffas need, particularly if Kallis is in doubt for the 3rd Test. I have a nagging feeling that there could be troubles for the Saffas today, maybe it's just indegestion! LOL! @MattyP1979 - I know your comment was a retort, but I am fascinated to learn who we've poached from your country. The fact is the historical trade between countries in cricketers is very firmly a surplus from Oz to England - even in the 1800s your mob was poaching our players. In more recent times you robbed us of Mullally & McCague!!! (LOL!) @satish619chandar - mate, I said "I doubt the Saffas will push for victory..."

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on August 6, 2012, 8:28 GMT

    What what what - a few overs lost to rain and there's no 'Plays of the day' to comment on? Come on George/David, stop watching the Olympics and get writing!

  • JG2704 on August 6, 2012, 7:47 GMT

    I also like Prior. A shame for him that Craig showed some form recently for Somerset otherwise he prob would be in the ODI/T20 sides too. He possibly should be anyway. Great knock from him yesterday - a shame Bres didn't try to follow suit

  • JG2704 on August 6, 2012, 7:44 GMT

    @satish619chandar on (August 06 2012, 03:17 AM GMT) Meety isn't saying for SA to go for the win as I read it. Just to put Eng in once the game is safe to see if they can take some wkts to carry some mometum into the next test. I suppose against that SA could be risking a bowler breaking down

  • JG2704 on August 6, 2012, 7:41 GMT

    @Meety on (August 05 2012, 23:16 PM GMT) I agree - If they can take a few Eng 2nd inns wkts (esp Strauss) it may dent confidence further.

  • Jabulani on August 6, 2012, 6:52 GMT

    Bramblefly - *facepalm* Immy is the exception, whereas KP, Trott, etc., going back decades, are the rule.

  • Bramblefly on August 6, 2012, 6:20 GMT

    Prior is the best keeper/batsman out there right now and England's best since Knott. Only De Villiers is his equal as a batsman. He is the key to England's balance as a team and to England recovering this series, an outcome that is still on.

  • Bramblefly on August 6, 2012, 6:12 GMT

    It's a shame SA plundered Pakistan's resources, otherwise Imran wouldn't have to bowl spin.

  • 12thUmpire on August 6, 2012, 4:12 GMT

    It would be interesting if №1 had England taken on the Rest of World in a 6 day test and bowled to Amla at one end and Chanders at the other!

  • Mad_Hamish on August 6, 2012, 3:45 GMT

    MattyP1979 James Pattinson was born in Australia, grew up in Australia and learned all his cricket in Australia. His brother Darren moved to Australia from England at 6 and was never in contention for an international match for Australia so there's very little evidence that Aus has stolen English cricketers. As far as bringing Haddin back all that's been announced so far is that he's available for selection again.

  • soorajiyer on August 6, 2012, 3:24 GMT

    Highly underrated in my opinion! Comes up with an innings of substance whenever the team needs it. England could well have lost the match (ok atleast would have chances of loosing it) if not for his innings.. And surprisingly his wicketkeeping has improved leaps and bounds...

    I seriously thought this guy was an overrated wck with decent batting skills and extremely poor keeping skills. He has turned it around...

  • satish619chandar on August 6, 2012, 3:23 GMT

    Though Prior haven't done in away games as well as he does in home, he is still the best keeper bat around.. I have lost the count of much needed innings from him.. To term it selfless is a bit exaggerating.. What else can a guy at 7 do? If he bats with top order, he can have his own game but once top order is gone, need to go for quick runs as you never know how the tail is going to fare on that day.. For the matter, any no.7 would be selfless.. If at all selfless innings, would rather term Dunimy's 48 coming in at 8.. For at op order bat, it was even better innings..

  • satish619chandar on August 6, 2012, 3:17 GMT

    @Meety : SA no way can push for win.. How much tcan they score? With almost no lead in finaly day, they have to play like in ODI and with almost 3 in the batting dept injured, they wouldn't risk it against the England attack.. England still has a good attack who are a proven pack.. Going for win would be the most risky one.. Playing on merit without getting bogged down ffor first session will be the key.. If they can get thru first session without losing more than 2 wickets, they have some serious blasters in Duminy and ABD.. May be, they can think after that.. Even a 100 lead by end of first session not losing more than 2 would make them think differently..

  • on August 6, 2012, 3:04 GMT

    Prior's contributions to the English cause over the past few years have been vital, and their significance in England's progress should not be underestimated. Australia in their pomp were often six for not many with either Healy or Gilchrist at the wicket. Both of them were similarly selfless and seemed to save their best for crunch situations. Prior is very much in the same mould and thoroughly deserves the accolades.

  • pommyadders on August 6, 2012, 2:26 GMT

    @thetopofoff - " I first viewed him as a good keeper who could bat a bit" Well you'd be very wrong then. When Prior first came into the side it was on the strength of his batting, his keeping was ordinary at best. He's worked hard at it and is now a very safe pair of hands behind the stumps.

  • MattyP1979 on August 6, 2012, 1:03 GMT

    RandyOz. We only poach SA players because you keep nabbing ours...or the Dutch. You are a BIG fan of Pattenson, i know that name from somewhere. Don't worry Eng have their backs to the wall (which is where we want them if any Aussies are around). 2 good teams trying their best mate enjoy it, oh and Aus I hear are bringing back HAddin lol.

  • MattyP1979 on August 5, 2012, 23:24 GMT

    Have to agree, bar non the best WK batsman in the world right now. There are some good ones around and some have alot of potential, but Prior is leader of this pack right now. As for result, I hope rather than have any real expectations for a result tommorow. I still would like to see competitive cricket being played down to the last ball, and hey you never know!

  • RandyOZ on August 5, 2012, 23:24 GMT

    It's a shame England plundered SA's resources, otherwise AB wouldn't have to keep.

  • Meety on August 5, 2012, 23:16 GMT

    I doubt the Saffas will push for victory here, I think too many injuries to the batting, but it might be worth their while sending England in after Tea, try & get a little bit of momentum into Lords. I think England are well placed to draw the series.

  • thetopofoff on August 5, 2012, 23:08 GMT

    As an Aussie, Prior rubs me the wrong way...but that's purely from a 'God I hate that Pommy wicketkeeper' point of view. As a cricketer, he is certainly a fine wicket keeper and batsman. I first viewed him as a good keeper who could bat a bit, but he has shown his batting to be of high class. He could easily bat in England's top five. Entertaining batsman who plays all the shots at a good clip.

  • jb633 on August 5, 2012, 22:07 GMT

    The best keeper batsman in the world. My respect for him went up after he managed to perform well in the UAE despite the top order constantly failing. His glovework has now become very reliable and I think he is the second best all rounder in world cricket. Still obviously not close to Kallis.

  • wrenx on August 5, 2012, 22:04 GMT

    Prior is very underrated - the only player in the side who's been on top form all year when his team mates have failed again and again. About time he got a promotion, and England field 5 bowlers.

  • vrn59 on August 5, 2012, 21:16 GMT

    Very good article: Matt Prior is the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the world today and it's a pity he doesn't get recognised more for it. A very likeable cricketer who brings a lot of value to his side! I must, however, disagree with his rather optimistic view that the match can either end in a draw or a win for England. Personally, I feel it will be a draw and that seems fairer, considering that SA's top order is nursing injuries. Prior musn't forget, though, that SA have a second-innings lead and all ten wickets intact. Even with swinging conditions, uneven bounce in the pitch and Kallis' injury, it will not be easy to bowl SA out, even with a world-class seam attack like England's. And even if they do, the English must remember that they will be facing an even fiercier pace attack in the same conditions; Tahir too could be a handful on the final day. With only three sessions left, and a chance of more rain, I think this Test will end in a draw, and fairly so, for both P(i)etersens :P

  • Blindedview on August 5, 2012, 20:16 GMT

    Undoubtedly The best wicketkeeper Batsman in the world.No one even comes close to this guy.The article captures his importance to this english side and his selflessness quite well!!

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  • Blindedview on August 5, 2012, 20:16 GMT

    Undoubtedly The best wicketkeeper Batsman in the world.No one even comes close to this guy.The article captures his importance to this english side and his selflessness quite well!!

  • vrn59 on August 5, 2012, 21:16 GMT

    Very good article: Matt Prior is the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the world today and it's a pity he doesn't get recognised more for it. A very likeable cricketer who brings a lot of value to his side! I must, however, disagree with his rather optimistic view that the match can either end in a draw or a win for England. Personally, I feel it will be a draw and that seems fairer, considering that SA's top order is nursing injuries. Prior musn't forget, though, that SA have a second-innings lead and all ten wickets intact. Even with swinging conditions, uneven bounce in the pitch and Kallis' injury, it will not be easy to bowl SA out, even with a world-class seam attack like England's. And even if they do, the English must remember that they will be facing an even fiercier pace attack in the same conditions; Tahir too could be a handful on the final day. With only three sessions left, and a chance of more rain, I think this Test will end in a draw, and fairly so, for both P(i)etersens :P

  • wrenx on August 5, 2012, 22:04 GMT

    Prior is very underrated - the only player in the side who's been on top form all year when his team mates have failed again and again. About time he got a promotion, and England field 5 bowlers.

  • jb633 on August 5, 2012, 22:07 GMT

    The best keeper batsman in the world. My respect for him went up after he managed to perform well in the UAE despite the top order constantly failing. His glovework has now become very reliable and I think he is the second best all rounder in world cricket. Still obviously not close to Kallis.

  • thetopofoff on August 5, 2012, 23:08 GMT

    As an Aussie, Prior rubs me the wrong way...but that's purely from a 'God I hate that Pommy wicketkeeper' point of view. As a cricketer, he is certainly a fine wicket keeper and batsman. I first viewed him as a good keeper who could bat a bit, but he has shown his batting to be of high class. He could easily bat in England's top five. Entertaining batsman who plays all the shots at a good clip.

  • Meety on August 5, 2012, 23:16 GMT

    I doubt the Saffas will push for victory here, I think too many injuries to the batting, but it might be worth their while sending England in after Tea, try & get a little bit of momentum into Lords. I think England are well placed to draw the series.

  • RandyOZ on August 5, 2012, 23:24 GMT

    It's a shame England plundered SA's resources, otherwise AB wouldn't have to keep.

  • MattyP1979 on August 5, 2012, 23:24 GMT

    Have to agree, bar non the best WK batsman in the world right now. There are some good ones around and some have alot of potential, but Prior is leader of this pack right now. As for result, I hope rather than have any real expectations for a result tommorow. I still would like to see competitive cricket being played down to the last ball, and hey you never know!

  • MattyP1979 on August 6, 2012, 1:03 GMT

    RandyOz. We only poach SA players because you keep nabbing ours...or the Dutch. You are a BIG fan of Pattenson, i know that name from somewhere. Don't worry Eng have their backs to the wall (which is where we want them if any Aussies are around). 2 good teams trying their best mate enjoy it, oh and Aus I hear are bringing back HAddin lol.

  • pommyadders on August 6, 2012, 2:26 GMT

    @thetopofoff - " I first viewed him as a good keeper who could bat a bit" Well you'd be very wrong then. When Prior first came into the side it was on the strength of his batting, his keeping was ordinary at best. He's worked hard at it and is now a very safe pair of hands behind the stumps.