England v West Indies, 1st Test, Lord's May 15, 2012

Prior excited by Bairstow presence

26

Matt Prior is currently regarded as one of the finest wicketkeeper-batsmen in Test cricket, so you wouldn't expect him to be ruffled by the prospect of a little competition. With England set to give a debut to Jonny Bairstow in the first Test against West Indies at Lord's, Prior said he is actually enjoying the presence of a fellow gloveman in the dressing room - though if his 22-year-old team-mate enjoys a similar Test debut to the one Prior made five years ago, he may scratch his beard and mull the question a little more deeply next time he's asked.

Prior made an unbeaten 126 in his first Test in 2007, against the same opponents on the same ground, and despite a brief period when he lost the gloves to Tim Ambrose at the start of 2008 has carved an unassailable niche for himself as England's wicketkeeper in the long format. Bairstow, who keeps wicket for Yorkshire and was behind the stumps for the Lions' ten-wicket win over the West Indians last week, is expected to play as a specialist batsman, coming in at No.6, but Prior is not worried about welcoming a man who could become a rival for his spot into the side. At least not yet, anyway.

"If he smashes a double hundred and I get nought he'll probably become a rival pretty quickly," Prior said, with a laugh. "He's a team-mate, obviously he's a wicketkeeper as well, but there are a number of wicketkeepers around the country and there always has been. Whether they're in the team or playing county cricket I know that I have to perform well to keep my place.

"It's always exciting when a player like Jonny comes through into the squad, he's settled in very well. It's nice to form a relationship with another keeper because ultimately he's the only other bloke in the room that knows what it's like to be a keeper. It's hugely exciting for Jonny this week and if he does get selected to make his debut it will be a great feeling I'm sure."

Prior, who has made three of his six Test tons at Lord's, including two in his last two Test matches at the ground, is the sort of player who would not begrudge Bairstow success, even if his place were less secure. He may have received a ticking off from the ICC for breaking a window in the pavilion and discombobulating a few MCC members during the Sri Lanka Test last year but it is team achievement, rather than individual accolades, that gets Prior worked up, a trait that is common to Andy Flower's hard-working England side.

"I've never been a big stat watcher. I've always tried to play the role that's needed to win the game, or save the game, or whatever it may be, so that's for me more important than the individual score," Prior said. "I've always played like that and I think I would struggle to play any differently. I find it more exciting to play for the team and to win a Test match.

"I believe it is one of our strengths. The team goal and team performance comes ahead of any one person's own goals and ego and I think it's vital in any successful team to have that."

Similarly, he will happily resume his place at No. 7 in the order, having been promoted to No. 6 on England's tour of Sri Lanka, as they supplemented their four-man attack with Samit Patel as the spin-bowling allrounder. In English conditions, on green pitches and against green opponents, a return to four bowlers and six batsmen is almost certain.

"I really don't mind. It doesn't make any difference, really, batting six or seven, that one spot," Prior said. "Batting at six you potentially have more opportunity to get a bigger score but then batting a seven has its challenges as well and that's something I enjoy doing. I genuinely believe the most important thing is getting the balance of the team right to win the Test match and if I bat at six or seven, I'm easy with either one."

While West Indies are depleted by the absence of key players at IPL, Prior was unequivocal about what his priorities are. "Personally for me no, because Test cricket is my life, all my goals are based around Test cricket at this moment in time," he said, when asked whether he would put an IPL contract above playing for England. "But it's an individual choice and it's up to those people to make their decisions. For me, I love playing Test cricket and it's something I want to do for a few more years to come."

It is perhaps easier to be enthusiastic when you are ranked No. 1 in the format, as England are. West Indies are currently rated the world's No. 7 Test side, a position they have not been higher than since the summer of 2000, when England beat them in a Test series for the first time in 31 years. But while Prior was not taking victory for granted, he denied that England needed to reassert their credentials after losing four Tests out of five over the winter and with their closest challengers for the No. 1 spot, South Africa, arriving later in the summer.

"I don't think we need to prove anything, as such, I think we've played pretty good cricket over a number of years now so I don't know about that. But certainly we want to get off to a good start this summer, after a few little glitches in the winter I know that everyone's very keen and pumped up to perform well from the off. There are two big series coming up, we want to play well, we want to win those series."

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • JG2704 on May 17, 2012, 9:22 GMT

    @AKS286 on (May 17 2012, 06:04 AM GMT) don't really understand your pots at all. I don't know what all these guys averages are at that particular time but you seem to be indicating that we play with an agressive opener/opening pair.I don't see this as a necessity unless your team are drawing matches because of inability to up the batting tempo which hasn't been happening and besides those players are aggressive and successful with it. Maybe someone like Hales could come in but it seems an unnecessary risk. And then you say about dropping KP who IS the most aggressive batsman we have - possibly exc Prior. Finn and Onions are decent but Broad has been immense for England , I honestly can't believe how anyone could think of dropping Broad or Anderson. You also use KP as an example of a success playing at a high tempo but you talk about dropping him?

  • AKS286 on May 17, 2012, 6:04 GMT

    @JG what is the avg of hayden before india series? what is the avg. of jayasuriya before opening? what is the avg of watson before qpening? a test debutant as a captain graeme smith's avg? what about symonds? what about KP? @Selassie-I katich is dropped so why not KP. Kp is a good batsman no doubt but rest are better than the best. same for broad finn and onion are better than broad. if you say buddy we don't need aggresive test batsman then gayle, sehwag,warner, watson,jayasuriya,hayden are the examples. and what one experiment like watson. otherwise i will go for suppiah.

  • JG2704 on May 16, 2012, 15:56 GMT

    @AKS286 on (May 16 2012, 06:42 AM GMT) That has to be one of the most bizzarre posts I have read on here. So you're saying to pick Luke Wright who has little form in the county championship as an opener and no Broad - seriously?

  • JG2704 on May 16, 2012, 15:52 GMT

    @ Tommocat /Cric-G/ wattersd - A billion Indians would say anything - but they would be wrong re the best test batsman. Sanga does not play WK in tests and neither does AB who is the best OD/T20 batsmen who also keeps wicket. Not that this is supposed to be a go compare thread for wicket keeper batsmen

  • Selassie-I on May 16, 2012, 15:19 GMT

    AKS... seriousley drop Broad? Currently ranked 8 in the ICC rankings for bowlers and excellent overe the last 2 years with half his career left. that's not to mention dropping KP, an outrage imo, he's one of the best batsmen in the world and is in magnificent form oveer the last 18 months with 2 double 100s, a great matchwinning 150. Also we need an opener at 1/2 not Luke wright as a test opener, that has to be a joke!? I'm not for this whole trend of having aggressive openers, in test cricket and openers prority shoudl be seeing the new ball off, then batting till lunch, tea and COP.not to hit a quick 30 then give his wicket away and start to expose the middle to the new ball.

  • AKS286 on May 16, 2012, 14:32 GMT

    @yorkshirepudding if broad will come then who will sit? finn or onions. but buddy i want onion and finn both in the team. anderson & finn with new ball and onion with old ball. broad did't suit with old as well new ball. finn is a good bowler of both old as well as new with a good speed. KP avg did't matter if he did't perform in main matches. and next ashes my favourites are england bcoz more balanced side. oz flop openers, the legend ponting is unpredictable. hussey age factor and he bats with tailenders. wade is still not tested. pattinson is good. MJ is doubtful. lyon has the capacity to out finn & anderson.

  • YorkshirePudding on May 16, 2012, 14:27 GMT

    @Cric-G, Sanka hasnt kept wicket for a long time in tests, instead focusing on Batting, but there is a case for De-villiers,

  • on May 16, 2012, 14:15 GMT

    @Cric-G - The difference is that neither de Villiers nor Sangakkara regularly keep wicket in tests for their respective countries. Prior is neither the best batsman who can keep wicket nor is he the best pure wicketkeeper, but in terms of combining both skills there are few (if any) who can match him in test matches currently.

  • Tommocat on May 16, 2012, 12:19 GMT

    If Dhoni was English, I would pick him straight away, even though I think Prior is great. That way we would get a pretty good wicketkeeper, a cool and destructive batsman and a fine, respected leader of men, who would provide a wow factor for the crowd.

    If only I could think of a new openning bat. Trott? That leaves a spare batting place and Strauss may be galvanized if he had to win a place as a batsman in his own right.

  • Cric-G on May 16, 2012, 11:45 GMT

    There is no doubt Prior is performing well for his country at present. but not there to be named as a top w/k batsman. common guys, we like him to be no 1 in that list as he is our country man, but definitely Sangakkara, and AB (if he is going to do the test keeping for SA) are well above Prior. overall Dhoni can be included too

  • JG2704 on May 17, 2012, 9:22 GMT

    @AKS286 on (May 17 2012, 06:04 AM GMT) don't really understand your pots at all. I don't know what all these guys averages are at that particular time but you seem to be indicating that we play with an agressive opener/opening pair.I don't see this as a necessity unless your team are drawing matches because of inability to up the batting tempo which hasn't been happening and besides those players are aggressive and successful with it. Maybe someone like Hales could come in but it seems an unnecessary risk. And then you say about dropping KP who IS the most aggressive batsman we have - possibly exc Prior. Finn and Onions are decent but Broad has been immense for England , I honestly can't believe how anyone could think of dropping Broad or Anderson. You also use KP as an example of a success playing at a high tempo but you talk about dropping him?

  • AKS286 on May 17, 2012, 6:04 GMT

    @JG what is the avg of hayden before india series? what is the avg. of jayasuriya before opening? what is the avg of watson before qpening? a test debutant as a captain graeme smith's avg? what about symonds? what about KP? @Selassie-I katich is dropped so why not KP. Kp is a good batsman no doubt but rest are better than the best. same for broad finn and onion are better than broad. if you say buddy we don't need aggresive test batsman then gayle, sehwag,warner, watson,jayasuriya,hayden are the examples. and what one experiment like watson. otherwise i will go for suppiah.

  • JG2704 on May 16, 2012, 15:56 GMT

    @AKS286 on (May 16 2012, 06:42 AM GMT) That has to be one of the most bizzarre posts I have read on here. So you're saying to pick Luke Wright who has little form in the county championship as an opener and no Broad - seriously?

  • JG2704 on May 16, 2012, 15:52 GMT

    @ Tommocat /Cric-G/ wattersd - A billion Indians would say anything - but they would be wrong re the best test batsman. Sanga does not play WK in tests and neither does AB who is the best OD/T20 batsmen who also keeps wicket. Not that this is supposed to be a go compare thread for wicket keeper batsmen

  • Selassie-I on May 16, 2012, 15:19 GMT

    AKS... seriousley drop Broad? Currently ranked 8 in the ICC rankings for bowlers and excellent overe the last 2 years with half his career left. that's not to mention dropping KP, an outrage imo, he's one of the best batsmen in the world and is in magnificent form oveer the last 18 months with 2 double 100s, a great matchwinning 150. Also we need an opener at 1/2 not Luke wright as a test opener, that has to be a joke!? I'm not for this whole trend of having aggressive openers, in test cricket and openers prority shoudl be seeing the new ball off, then batting till lunch, tea and COP.not to hit a quick 30 then give his wicket away and start to expose the middle to the new ball.

  • AKS286 on May 16, 2012, 14:32 GMT

    @yorkshirepudding if broad will come then who will sit? finn or onions. but buddy i want onion and finn both in the team. anderson & finn with new ball and onion with old ball. broad did't suit with old as well new ball. finn is a good bowler of both old as well as new with a good speed. KP avg did't matter if he did't perform in main matches. and next ashes my favourites are england bcoz more balanced side. oz flop openers, the legend ponting is unpredictable. hussey age factor and he bats with tailenders. wade is still not tested. pattinson is good. MJ is doubtful. lyon has the capacity to out finn & anderson.

  • YorkshirePudding on May 16, 2012, 14:27 GMT

    @Cric-G, Sanka hasnt kept wicket for a long time in tests, instead focusing on Batting, but there is a case for De-villiers,

  • on May 16, 2012, 14:15 GMT

    @Cric-G - The difference is that neither de Villiers nor Sangakkara regularly keep wicket in tests for their respective countries. Prior is neither the best batsman who can keep wicket nor is he the best pure wicketkeeper, but in terms of combining both skills there are few (if any) who can match him in test matches currently.

  • Tommocat on May 16, 2012, 12:19 GMT

    If Dhoni was English, I would pick him straight away, even though I think Prior is great. That way we would get a pretty good wicketkeeper, a cool and destructive batsman and a fine, respected leader of men, who would provide a wow factor for the crowd.

    If only I could think of a new openning bat. Trott? That leaves a spare batting place and Strauss may be galvanized if he had to win a place as a batsman in his own right.

  • Cric-G on May 16, 2012, 11:45 GMT

    There is no doubt Prior is performing well for his country at present. but not there to be named as a top w/k batsman. common guys, we like him to be no 1 in that list as he is our country man, but definitely Sangakkara, and AB (if he is going to do the test keeping for SA) are well above Prior. overall Dhoni can be included too

  • YorkshirePudding on May 16, 2012, 11:40 GMT

    @AKS286, so KP who has a test career average of 49 with the bat and Broad who last year average sub 22 with the ball should be dropped. Also Bresnan isnt an allrounder hes able to bat a bit but is no number 7 at the moment, a few low scores and that 40 Avg will drop like a stone.

  • jmcilhinney on May 16, 2012, 10:40 GMT

    @wattersd on (May 16 2012, 10:04 AM GMT), if we're talking Test cricket, which we are, then there's really no contest. I'd say that Prior is the superior keeper overall, although Dhoni have the edge to spinners due to having a lot more experience. As a batsman, the difference in both average and strike rate is over 5 in Prior's favour. If we're talking limited-overs cricket, while I do think that Prior can be effective, Dhoni is easily the better batsman and may be the best finisher in the world. He's not pretty but his results speak for themselves.

  • on May 16, 2012, 10:34 GMT

    AKS286 WTH are you going on about - NO pietersen? - you are bonkers and know nothing about this beautifu; game

  • SDHM on May 16, 2012, 10:31 GMT

    wattersd - Prior is definitely the better player in Test cricket, but Dhoni is a far superior ODI batsman. Keeping-wise they're also similar, but I'd probably plump for Prior as well - he kept well over the winter to the spinners (especially given his horror tour to Sri Lanka first time round), and keeping in England is, as Dhoni found out last summer, probably the hardest job in the world for the man behind the stumps!

  • wattersd on May 16, 2012, 10:04 GMT

    I think MS Dhoni and a billion Indians might have something to say about Prior being proclaimed the #1 wicket-keeper batsman in world cricket!

  • Elliott_Tree on May 16, 2012, 9:58 GMT

    If Bairstow can step up to Test level as a powerful, inventive middle-order batsman (not be found wanting a la Bopara and Morgan), while continuing to develop as a keeper - this will be brilliant for the future of the England team. It allows gradual development of someone to fill Matt Prior's rather substantial shoes (I'm in full agreement with demon_bowler and VillageBlacksmith on this one, he's a quiet legend)

  • AKS286 on May 16, 2012, 6:42 GMT

    i think eng must find an opener along with cook and strauss must go down to 3/4 position. 3 pacers 1 spinner and 1 all rounder ie Bresnan. broad and KP is a good odi and t20 player. so both has to left the test team. one experiment i want from eng team same that is followed by CA. shane watson as a opener so try luke wright as a opener a futuristic idea. for WI team nothing to worry and nothing to do much soo. no matter if gayle, bravo, pollard result will be same for WI. cook, suppiah, trott, strauss, bell, taylor/baristow, prior, bresnan, swann, onion, anderson, finn. jimmy adams is also be considered. but still i really miss trescothick specially against WI

  • jmcilhinney on May 16, 2012, 5:47 GMT

    @anver777 on (May 16 2012, 04:40 AM GMT), he'd have to do a bit better than Prior's average of 43 because I think that it's safe to say that Prior is the better keeper, for now at least. I can't see Prior being ousted in the next four years at least.

  • anver777 on May 16, 2012, 4:40 GMT

    Bairstow is an exciting prospect for Eng cricket !!!! If he scores heavily,early in his test career then surely there will be some pressure for Prior....anyway good luck to him & have a great debut !!!!

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on May 16, 2012, 4:23 GMT

    In a way Bairstow has to change people's perceptions of him from wicketkeeper batsman to batsman as that is how he will stay in the team. Number 6 is quite a specialist position and can turn games batting with the tail. I don't imagine he will be dislodging Prior behind the stumps anytime soon so he will need to work on his fielding and watch out for rivals who can bowl a bit. An extra bowling option is more useful than a back up keeper who might be needed once in a blue moon.

  • sharidas on May 16, 2012, 4:03 GMT

    Keep going Matt. You are one of my favourite keepers and I bet it will take a hell of a lot to replace you.

  • VillageBlacksmith on May 15, 2012, 23:34 GMT

    @demonbowler, totally agree, and when his keeping needed work he went away & came back even stronger, his stats are easily the best around but are only a part of his story or contribution, he supports his bowlers very well and in the field is the energetic heartbeat of the team and a combative counter attacking batsman who is exciting to watch.

  • Patchmaster on May 15, 2012, 21:50 GMT

    I remember watching the Ashes last year, and one of my favourite things was seeing Brad Haddin's face so glum behind the stumps as Prior smashed the mediocre AUS attack everywhere. Brilliant. Made even better by Brad Haddin being made Anderson's bunny.

  • AdrianVanDenStael on May 15, 2012, 20:24 GMT

    One other reason for Prior to be happy about having Bairstow in the squad is that it gives him a bit more reason to be relaxed about his pre-match warm up. While warming up ahead of the Headingley Ashes test in 2009, Prior had a big injury scare, which made England pretty desperate for a moment or two (from memory there was even briefly thought of bringing Bruce French out of a very long retirement to play in that test). At least if Prior stands on cricket ball while playing touch rugby or some such game at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning, England now have a more appropriate replacement to hand behind the stumps ...

  • PunchDrunkPunter on May 15, 2012, 17:36 GMT

    The world's best keeper-batsman! In Bairstow and Prior, England have the 1st and 3rd best keeper-batsmen in the world!

  • demon_bowler on May 15, 2012, 17:31 GMT

    Matty Prior is the unsung hero of the current England side. In all the years I've been watching test cricket, I can't recall a more unselfish player; one who puts the needs of the team first, the needs of his batting partner second, and his own needs only in third place.

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  • demon_bowler on May 15, 2012, 17:31 GMT

    Matty Prior is the unsung hero of the current England side. In all the years I've been watching test cricket, I can't recall a more unselfish player; one who puts the needs of the team first, the needs of his batting partner second, and his own needs only in third place.

  • PunchDrunkPunter on May 15, 2012, 17:36 GMT

    The world's best keeper-batsman! In Bairstow and Prior, England have the 1st and 3rd best keeper-batsmen in the world!

  • AdrianVanDenStael on May 15, 2012, 20:24 GMT

    One other reason for Prior to be happy about having Bairstow in the squad is that it gives him a bit more reason to be relaxed about his pre-match warm up. While warming up ahead of the Headingley Ashes test in 2009, Prior had a big injury scare, which made England pretty desperate for a moment or two (from memory there was even briefly thought of bringing Bruce French out of a very long retirement to play in that test). At least if Prior stands on cricket ball while playing touch rugby or some such game at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning, England now have a more appropriate replacement to hand behind the stumps ...

  • Patchmaster on May 15, 2012, 21:50 GMT

    I remember watching the Ashes last year, and one of my favourite things was seeing Brad Haddin's face so glum behind the stumps as Prior smashed the mediocre AUS attack everywhere. Brilliant. Made even better by Brad Haddin being made Anderson's bunny.

  • VillageBlacksmith on May 15, 2012, 23:34 GMT

    @demonbowler, totally agree, and when his keeping needed work he went away & came back even stronger, his stats are easily the best around but are only a part of his story or contribution, he supports his bowlers very well and in the field is the energetic heartbeat of the team and a combative counter attacking batsman who is exciting to watch.

  • sharidas on May 16, 2012, 4:03 GMT

    Keep going Matt. You are one of my favourite keepers and I bet it will take a hell of a lot to replace you.

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on May 16, 2012, 4:23 GMT

    In a way Bairstow has to change people's perceptions of him from wicketkeeper batsman to batsman as that is how he will stay in the team. Number 6 is quite a specialist position and can turn games batting with the tail. I don't imagine he will be dislodging Prior behind the stumps anytime soon so he will need to work on his fielding and watch out for rivals who can bowl a bit. An extra bowling option is more useful than a back up keeper who might be needed once in a blue moon.

  • anver777 on May 16, 2012, 4:40 GMT

    Bairstow is an exciting prospect for Eng cricket !!!! If he scores heavily,early in his test career then surely there will be some pressure for Prior....anyway good luck to him & have a great debut !!!!

  • jmcilhinney on May 16, 2012, 5:47 GMT

    @anver777 on (May 16 2012, 04:40 AM GMT), he'd have to do a bit better than Prior's average of 43 because I think that it's safe to say that Prior is the better keeper, for now at least. I can't see Prior being ousted in the next four years at least.

  • AKS286 on May 16, 2012, 6:42 GMT

    i think eng must find an opener along with cook and strauss must go down to 3/4 position. 3 pacers 1 spinner and 1 all rounder ie Bresnan. broad and KP is a good odi and t20 player. so both has to left the test team. one experiment i want from eng team same that is followed by CA. shane watson as a opener so try luke wright as a opener a futuristic idea. for WI team nothing to worry and nothing to do much soo. no matter if gayle, bravo, pollard result will be same for WI. cook, suppiah, trott, strauss, bell, taylor/baristow, prior, bresnan, swann, onion, anderson, finn. jimmy adams is also be considered. but still i really miss trescothick specially against WI