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Prior, Stokes hope to prove fitness ahead of Lord's Test

Andrew McGlashan

May 13, 2014

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Matt Prior watches as the umpire's check for a no-ball on his dismissal, Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 3rd day, December 15, 2013
Matt Prior has been training with an anti-gravity running machine to try to aid his recovery from an achilles injury © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Ben Stokes | Matt Prior | James Whitaker
Teams: England

Ben Stokes and Matt Prior, two players whom the England selectors viewed as likely starters in the first Test against Sri Lanka, hope to return to action towards the end of the month in a bid to prove their fitness for the Lord's match in June.

Stokes has not played since breaking his hand after the final T20 against West Indies, in March, an injury that ruled him out of the World T20. The healing process has been slow but James Whitaker, the national selector, said the aim was for him to be playing some form of cricket within the next weeks although he remained cautious about a return to the international stage.

"He's on the road to recovery. He's had a positive scan only yesterday so it's slowly slowly at the moment, more pressure each day and monitor it over the next week or two," Whitaker after the announcement of England's T20 and ODI squads to face Sri Lanka. "But he will be reintroduced to cricket over the next 10 or so days, very gentle, netting, perhaps an academy game, but he's another one we have to take good care of in the future.

"We're always balancing aren't we, the risk and reward, but better they come back fully fit so it helps them regain form. Let's get them back fully fit first, I think that's the right way to go."

Prior has not played since Sussex's opening Championship match of the season, against Middlesex at Hove, where he scored a hundred but did not keep wicket, due to an achilles injury. He has recently been training with an anti-gravity running machine to try to aid his recovery and is pencilled in to play against Middlesex from May 26.

If his comeback is delayed much further it is unlikely England will be able to select him for the first Test, which then leaves a conundrum over who will keep wicket. Jonny Bairstow remains the man in possession having kept in the Sydney Test in January, and has regained the gloves for Yorkshire in this round of Championship matches, while Jos Buttler made a half-century in tricky conditions against Middlesex but concerns over the pair's glovework remain.

"There's a number of viable candidates for the role - the guy that holds the spot at the moment is keeping wicket for Yorkshire," Whitaker said. "Matt Prior is injured and coming back and hopes to put himself into contention for the first Test by playing a couple of games. He decided rather than come back sooner and just batting let's try and clear it up so when he does come back he can keep and bat at the same time."

Whitaker also had words of encouragement for Liam Plunkett who has impressed with his pace and stamina for Yorkshire this season, although said he had not come into serious consideration for the limited-overs squads.

"He has made good progress and if he carries on like this he will be talked about more and more. It is great to see him playing well and you have to pay compliments to Jason Gillespie and Martyn Moxon because he looks a reinvigorated force.

"Full credit to Kevin Shine and all those guys at Loughborough for working with him on the performance programme in the winter and selecting him for the Lions. He really did a good job on some flat wickets, his energy was fantastic and he got some vital breakthroughs and his batting was a bonus at the end. Yorkshire have made a great signing.

"It is all about his state of mind. He is very relaxed now, his bowling his terrific, and long may it continue. The more options we have for all forms of the game the better, especially at that pace."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug on (May 17, 2014, 8:03 GMT)

Stokes Ashes performances could well have been a flash in the pan. Prior has had a very very long run of poor performances with both bat and gloves so I have to disagree with comments suggesting otherwise. I also think that Prior was a big part of the KP ditching or at least the team disunity so I'd be curious to see what Cook might want for his side. As Australia showed and as should be the basics of common sense, teams should be picked on form, not potential and not performances in the distant past. Australia picked their best 11 (Watson being an arguable inclusion as always) and dealt out a thrashing whilst England kept picking players out of form (Prior, Anderson, Root etc). It's not a good plan.

Posted by Jaffa79 on (May 15, 2014, 19:14 GMT)

Prior has a lot more to give. He has had a poor trot but he has scored runs at a good lick at 7 around the world for a few years. His keeping, which was a concern when he started is now very solid and still light years ahead of Buttler and Bairstow. Bairstow is not test quality I am afraid, he has had his chances. 14 tests and an average of 27 doesn't cut the mustard. I'd be more inclined to look at Ben Foakes for the future but not for a couple of years.

Posted by landl47 on (May 15, 2014, 3:26 GMT)

@dunger.bob: I agree entirely. It's not as though Prior has a lengthy record of under-achievement; this time last year he was being voted as England's player of the year for 2012. Of course he must justify his inclusion with runs and solid keeping, but a couple of bad series from a guy who has been one of England's stalwarts for the last series doesn't warrant throwing him out like an old sock.

Bell, Prior and Anderson are the senior players to whom Cook needs to look for advice and support. Prior brings a lot to the table in that regard.

Posted by dunger.bob on (May 14, 2014, 22:39 GMT)

@Nutcutlet: I can see both sides of the Prior coin. On one hand he does need to justify his spot with solid efforts on the field just as anyone should but on the other hand the powers that be are probably desperate to get him back in the side due to his seniority and the effect he has on the players around him. .. Looking at it from afar it seems to me that England has had radical surgery in that you've just lost 3 very senior players in Swann, Trott and KP. The think tank may be hell bent on not losing a 4th stalwart just yet. They might think it would be just too much to bear to have to bed in a new keeper as well.

Posted by   on (May 14, 2014, 20:06 GMT)

question is selectors say we are moving forward blah blah so kp is gone they surely cant go back to prior then can they?

Posted by   on (May 14, 2014, 16:33 GMT)

England should be moving forward with new players, Bairstow should be given another crack at establishing himself as first choice wicket-keeper. Players like Roland-Jones, Harris, Borthwick should be given Test matches also instead of returning to the likes of Bresnan, Tremlett and Panesar.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (May 14, 2014, 15:09 GMT)

It seems wrong that Prior has a place reserved for him. His fitness has been an issue all season - so much so that he hasn't kept recently for Sussex and his form over the last year has been short of ordinary. It's that same old England mentality - once your're in, you're in and undroppable. How anyone can be take on archived form is beyond me. What sort of message does this send to all the other keepers who may well be cherishing the opportunity to strut their stuff on the Test match stage? Let Prior prove himself -- several games of top class keeping with a weight of runs -- and then he dererves to be given his place back. The days of the closed shop are still with us.

Posted by brusselslion on (May 14, 2014, 11:09 GMT)

"There's a number of viable candidates for the role - the guy that holds the spot at the moment is keeping wicket for Yorkshire" which seems to suggest to me that Bairstow will be there for the 1st Test. The question is why? The answer must have something to do with the ECB's version of the theorem i.e. give him enough innings and eventually he'll make a score.

Posted by landl47 on (May 14, 2014, 4:18 GMT)

Stokes needs more than a game or two to get ready for test cricket. His form in the West Indies was terrible (hence the busted hand) and he needs to get back in some sort of touch before he's picked again. Prior, on the other hand, knows his game pretty well and he'll know when he's ready. He still brings a lot to the side, even though his form in the last year was as poor as his form in the year before was good.

@RandyOZ: Childish and tasteless. I would have expected better than that from an Australian.

Posted by RandyOZ on (May 13, 2014, 21:58 GMT)

I really hope Prior plays, we want him hopping around like Trotty next Ashes. Mitch is coming.

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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