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January 22, 2012
Matt Prior, the England wicketkeeper, has described defeat at the hands of Pakistan in the first Test in Dubai as "a good slap in the face", as England arrived in Abu Dhabi adamant that they can recover to square the series.
Prior, one of the few England batsmen to enjoy a decent game in Dubai, admitted that their pride had taken a serious dent, but said that England's fine record over the last couple of years should not be annulled after one poor game and that confidence remains high.
"It's never nice to lose, but to lose in that fashion is even worse," Prior said. "We're a proud team. We're used to walking off the pitch having inflicted the sort of defeat Pakistan inflicted upon us, so it was a very bitter pill to swallow. No-one in this team enjoyed it one little bit.
"It's taken a few days to get over it, but now there is a steely determination that it will not happen again. This performance has given us a real good slap in the face.
"You don't become a bad team over night. We've had one bad performance. But look at the stats. Look at the performances our guys have put in over recent years. We're still a very good batting unit. We've had two bad innings, granted, but all the guys have taken that on the chin and accepted that we have to improve. We have to get better. I'll back this team and this batting unit to come back strong."
Echoing the thoughts of his coach, Andy Flower, Prior suggested that England may have come in to the match a little underprepared, having not played a Test since August.
"You can spend as much time in the gym and as much time in the nets or on the training ground as you want," Prior said. "But until you're out in the middle, you don't get that ring-ready feeling. Getting used to little things takes time: the nerves; travelling into the ground; switching on and off again when batting. Having that two or three month break was invaluable. It was necessary. But obviously it is then tough to come back in and be ready."
Prior fielded what have become the obligatory questions about Saeed Ajmal's bowling action, and reiterated the view that the England players were not allowing such issues to distract them.
"It would be easy for players to make excuses after we've performed badly," he said. "But we can't get caught up in what is going on off the pitch. It has nothing to do with the players. The ICC has systems in place. We shouldn't worry about things we don't have to worry about.
"The wicket wasn't one of the reasons we lost, either. I thought it was a brilliant cricket wicket. You expect to come over here and find very flat pitches with very little in them for the bowlers. But the seamers had a bit of bounce and a bit of movement, there was a bit of spin and, and if you batted well and played good shots, you earned value for your runs."
The second Test starts in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday and Prior agreed that England's priority was an improvement in the way they played Ajmal's spin bowling.
"The obvious thing we need to think about is how we play spin and how we play Saeed Ajmal," he said. "But it's important we don't get caught up with just one bloke. Umar Gul came in and took wickets in the second innings, so we just need to improve our general game really.
"We tend to come back strong after these sorts of losses. We've had that bad one now - it's out of the way - now we're going to come back strong. We're behind the eight-ball now and we know we have to play good enough cricket to force results in last two matches."
The England squad - now with the wives and girlfriends in tow - and the Pakistan squad both travelled to Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Although they stayed at the same hotel in Dubai, there has been little fraternisation between the sides. If there may be little warmth, however, there is certainly respect. England know they are embroiled in a tough series against a strong side. By going 1-0 down in a three-match series, they have made life desperately hard for themselves.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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