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March 1, 2013
Rather than seeing England's top-order problems against the New Zealand XI as a worry ahead of the Test series, Matt Prior believes the situation has given the warm-up match added value that will aid preparations for Dunedin.
Having been flayed at six-an-over during the morning session before the home side declared, England then slumped to 67 for 4 which included failures for Nick Compton and Kevin Pietersen after the pair also failed to shine on the opening day.
Prior was promoted to No. 5 and responded with a typically positive 68 which included 11 boundaries and was pleased to have been put into a situation where there was pressure to pull the side out of trouble.
"For me personally, to be in that position - not dissimilar to how it would be in a Test match, if we'd lost a few early wickets with bowlers running in hard - to knuckle down and find a bit of rhythm out in the middle is perfect preparation. That's very, very pleasing and is what you're trying to get out of warm-up matches."
The New Zealand XI, from which as many as four players could appear in the Test next week, have pushed England over the three days. With all the players in the home side aiming to impress the national selectors and management - Mike Hesson, the New Zealand coach, and the director of cricket John Buchanan were both at the ground - there has been an edge to the contest not always associated with warm-up matches.
"We'd far prefer this from a warm-up match than guys just coming in and going through the motions," Prior said. "You don't want dead cricket, and we're going in tomorrow with the opportunity to win a game. From a preparation point of view, it's absolutely fantastic."
Prior, who like Pietersen and Compton only joined the tour last week, was not concerned about the lack of runs from some in the top order.
"The guys are experienced enough and have played long enough now to know that the big test starts next week, and that's when it's important they score runs. They've been on tours where they haven't scored any runs in warm-up games, and then blitzed a hundred in the first Test."
BJ Watling, the New Zealand wicketkeeper batsman who finished unbeaten on 66 and bagged four catches, was also not going to read too much into England's batting form, although he will no doubt have some tips to pass onto Brendon McCullum. "Sometimes you nick them and sometimes you don't," he said. "I'm sure they'll be ready for the Test."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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