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

Prior excited by Bairstow presence


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

  • John 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?

  • Anupam 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.

  • John 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?

  • John 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

  • Rayner 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.

  • Anupam 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.

  • Jason 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,

  • Dummy4 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.

  • Tim 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.

  • Pat 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

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