England v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Lord's, 2nd day June 4, 2011

Prior bullish despite tough day

England's centurion, Matt Prior, has said that his team still fancied their chances of sealing the series against Sri Lanka with a game to spare, despite enduring a tough time in the field on the second day at Lord's. Thanks to an unbeaten century from Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sri Lanka closed the second day on 231 for 1, a feisty response to their total of 82 all out in the second innings in Cardiff.

"We're an honest enough team to know that we didn't bowl and field as well as we can do, as well as we have done," said Prior at the close. "Things don't always go perfectly to plan in Test cricket. But the thing I know about this team and its character is that we'll come back tomorrow even harder, even better prepared and even more ready and willing to hit the mark again."

The day started well enough for England, with Prior converting his overnight 73 into an impressive 126 from 131 balls, his second Test century at the ground, and his fifth in 42 Tests overall. His performance helped lift England from a precarious 201 for 5 to an imposing 486 all out, although by the close, Dilshan's first century as Sri Lanka captain had redressed the balance significantly.

Asked whether England had expected too little from Sri Lanka in the aftermath of their Cardiff disaster, Prior denied that was the case. "You can't expect to bowl a team out in 25 overs every time you walk out," he said. "I think we just need to go back to basics, take stock of what's happened today - and I'm sure you'll see an improved bowling and fielding performance tomorrow.

"We walked off after our first innings very, very pleased with the score we got. But then Tillakaratne Dilshan came in and played a very good innings, showing great intent on a pretty docile wicket."

England's attack had a menacing look to it at the start of the Test, with Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn and Stuart Broad all registering between 6'6" and 6'8". However, the lofty approach lacked subtlety on a benign wicket, with Finn in particular struggling for line and length. England severely missed the lateral movement that the injured James Anderson could have provided.

"You are always going to feel like you're missing a guy like Jimmy Anderson, because he's the best swing bowler in the world," said Prior. "He's absolute class, and you always want him in your team.

"But Finny has come in and is a fantastic bowler in his own right. You saw how many wickets he took in the Ashes and in his short career so far. The line-up as it stands, three big guys and Swanny, is a world-class bowling outfit. We know that, and we back them 100%."

With that in mind, Prior reiterated his faith in his team-mates. "This team keeps surprising itself, keeps pulling things out even when it's looking ominous," he said. "To get that score on the board, when we've been 20-odd for 3, is a fantastic effort in the first place.

"We are not in a bad position and still have a 250-lead. If we do bowl and field well tomorrow, there's no reason why we can't get a good first-innings lead. If we bat well again, we're holding all the cards in this Test match."

On a personal note, Prior's fifth Test hundred drew him level with Alan Knott, arguably the greatest wicketkeeper-batsman in England's history, and it was a fact of which he was keenly aware. "It's something I'm very, very proud of," he said. "I do keep track of records of other England wicketkeepers from the past, so it's a nice milestone.

The bulk of his runs on the final day came in a 108-run stand for the seventh wicket with Stuart Broad. However, the manner in which he reached three figures was not the most convincing, as four consecutive edges, including a drop at slip by Mahela Jayawardene, carried him from 86 to 99, before a clip to midwicket secured his name on the honour's board.

"The plan is always to take a little moment to get yourself in, but it didn't really happen ... we went from first gear to sixth, which always happens with Broady," he said. "But in a situation like that, if you're feeling good you almost just have to go with the flow and ride your luck a little bit - and obviously I was very fortunate through the 90s.

"I just thought 'it's my day'. Mahela Jayawardene is one of best, if not the best, slip fielders I've ever seen, so when he drops you you know you're on a good thing. You need a bit of luck every now and then, and I had my fair share."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on June 6, 2011, 6:40 GMT

    @tjsimonsen - Ashes are history, your lot did very well to pull off a win in the 1st Test v SL, but this bowling is not world class. Tremlett & Swanny are world class, Anderson is, Broad & Finn aren't.

  • Visu on June 5, 2011, 13:17 GMT

    test teams 1 india 2 sl 3SA 4england sri lanka will dominate

  • Srinivasan on June 5, 2011, 9:34 GMT

    The so called "best test team in the world" struggling against a team "lamb" in abroad. lol

  • joel on June 5, 2011, 8:53 GMT

    Joneys2@ we must of being watching a different ashes series mate , im sure i wittnesed Finn taking quite a few Australian wickets . Are you actually being serious saying that Prior is a poor mans Brad haddin ? . cos if you are , thats hilarious .

  • thomas on June 5, 2011, 7:48 GMT

    @jonesy2: and yet he took 5 wickets/match against an exceptionally overhyped Australia. Seriously, Prior a "poor man's Haaddin"?? There's very little to choose between the two. A poor man's Gilchrist perhaps, but that goes for both Prior and Haddin. You seem to comment on these pages (the ones that concern England but not Australia) only to put England down which is really funny given that your Australia were HAMMERED in the Ashes by a team that was an order of magnitude better (and that apparently has placed a gigantic chip on your shoulder you need to get rid off). But every time you put England down, you are really saying saying that Australina were totally out played by a bad team. If you say England are poor, the inescapable conclusion must be that Australia are poor[squared].

  • Bryn on June 5, 2011, 6:57 GMT

    is prior actually serious? "you saw how many wickets finn took is the ashes" no, i mean i saw him get exposed for an average hyped up pom and get slapped around by the aussies until dropped. this poor man's brad haddin should never talk to the media.

  • chandana on June 5, 2011, 3:23 GMT

    Prior is a good ODI batsman for tests; meaning he can score fast like in a ODI with the field set for a test inning. When in a ODI he comes off in fits and starts unlike Gilly who I must say has been the best among recent keepers in all 3 formats of cricket. Also it is funny in today's game when there are so many coaches and analysts that Prior gets to score so much on the off side beyween the 3rd man - extra cover arc. Most of his shots are in this area and there are more edges than middles :) The problem with scribes is that they try to be eloquent and poetic often coming out with the wrong / unrealistic quotes. How dare you compare Broad, Tremlett and Finn to Walsh, Ambrose and Bishop? Height may be the one and only common factor among these 6, becoz the WI trio were greats in their own right with more than 800 test scalps among them. What have the POM 3 done to deserve comparison? They dont have athe menace, accuracy or guile that was withnessed in a different era of cricket.

  • joel on June 4, 2011, 21:35 GMT

    Matt prior , is a prime example that hard work pays off .England are very lucky to have such a fine player . Blimey and i thought alex stuart was a good keeper/batsman .

  • Harmon on June 4, 2011, 21:22 GMT

    I think the fast bowling trio had a largely disappointing day today, Tremlett hitting Dilshan notwithstanding. Swann bowled well at times but a spinner alone will never pose too many challenges to a subcontinent batsman. The only defense for Eng can be that the pitch was a beauty to bat on and was to the liking of SL batsmen. What was the curator thinking? Had this been the subcontinent, people would have been mourning the imminent death of test cricket being hastened by BCCI-SL-PCB. Why did Eng need to have such a lifeless wicket esp after the debacle of SL in Caridff? At the same time, Prior played very well for his Lord's 100 and was fluent most of the time barring in his 90s. Prior did not look good in the WC but he looks more comfortable in the test matches.

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