The Ashes 2010-11 December 12, 2010

Prior finds touch as England eye unbeaten tour

23

There hasn't been much wrong with Matt Prior's batting on this tour, it's just that his best work hasn't been required yet. Alastair Cook is in the form of his life, Andrew Strauss is leading by example, Kevin Pietersen was a matchwinner in Adelaide, Jonathan Trott loves batting against Australia and Ian Bell is in career-best touch. Paul Collingwood is the only one in the top six yet to fire.

And so, the man at No. 7 has been almost irrelevant. He hadn't made a half-century on the trip until the tour match against Victoria - he hadn't had to. And while this outing doesn't count towards the Ashes, England are desperate to go through the trip without losing a match, and Prior's unbeaten 102 ensured that record stay intact as a rainy draw was secured against a local attack that proved more threatening than could have been expected.

"It was just nice to get in the middle and have an opportunity to bat for a while, try and build an innings and get through a tricky patch as well," Prior said. "For me personally, it was perfect preparation for next week. I was delighted to get the hundred but more important was the time in the middle and getting back into the rhythm of building an innings.

"If we carry on playing the brand of cricket we have been, there's certainly no reason why we can't go through the tour unbeaten. You go on any tour, you want to be unbeaten, whether it be an Ashes tour or anywhere else. If we could manage to do that, it would be a fantastic feat, but it's something we're certainly targeting."

That approach meant that a game that featured three declarations, as the captains tried to create a result, was reduced to a dull draw after England's top order faltered to be 4 for 55 shortly before lunch. The promotion of Tim Bresnan ahead of Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell notwithstanding, England weren't about to throw away their winning touch.

"Going in to lunch we were adamant we weren't losing this game," Prior said. "Winning is a habit and it's a habit that you want to protect. If we had have lost today, I think we would have been very disappointed people. You can't take for granted being on a good run and you have to sometimes dig in and make sure you continue that run."

One of the main aims England took in to the match was to establish which of their backup fast bowlers will replace the injured Stuart Broad for the third Test in Perth, but Bresnan, Chris Tremlett and Ajmal Shahzad took only one wicket between them. Tremlett remains the favourite to join the Test side, but Prior said it was not fair to compare their work on a slow drop-in pitch at the MCG to the quicker, bouncier surface they would be confronted with at the WACA.

"This was not an easy wicket to get the batsman out," he said. "I don't think any bowler was going to charge in and take a whole load. All three of them bowled beautifully, held up ends, didn't let the batters score at a rate, and all did a very good job on a wicket that wasn't helpful at all. They've all put their hands up."

So has Prior, who batted at No. 4 to give him time at the crease. Should Australia's bowlers find the magic solution to running through England's top order, they'll be met by the sight of an in-form No. 7 striding to the wicket, and their work will be far from done.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on December 13, 2010, 18:57 GMT

    One can see where the temptation lies though: Currently there's only one team that can claim the title "The Invincibles" - albeit Warwick Armstrong's 1921 side came awfully close until the Big Ship was outwitted by Archie McLaren, something Gideon Haigh has never forgiven old Archie for. Were England to go through this tour unbeaten, they would not only have defended the Ashes in the best possible manner, but also have equalled the performance of Don Bradman's immortal 1948 team. Most likely, this tour presents England with the best opportunity they have ever had and are likely to get for the forseeable future.

  • phoenixsteve on December 13, 2010, 16:57 GMT

    Well,,, duh.... Prior wants England to have an unbeaten tour! I'd be very concerned if he said "we hope to lose a game or two" Every International touring team wants thiis - it goes without saying! can you imagine India saying "we hope to win a game or two but we know we'll probably lose the test series" (This would be realistic but they are not going to say it!) It's an interesting time for England and they must be quietly amused by the headless chicken approach to selection - as shown by the Aussies! I know i am..... Let's hope for another England win in Perth and then we will be sure of retaining the ashes. At least the Aussies have lowered their sights somewhat and will be serving Beer instead of Champagne (Bollinger) but as far as the food course goes; it's going to be the same stuff served up I guess.... plenty of TRIPE! COME ON ENGLAND!!!

  • RednWhiteArmy on December 13, 2010, 11:39 GMT

    3rd in the rankings at the moment after losing the toss & crushing australia by an innings in australia (dont think india or SA have done that recently!), 2 double centurians before perth, young players doing well, records falling left right and centre, confidence, australian selection troubles, graeme swann, competition for places AND a midstrength BEER!

    can we play australia everyweek?

  • YorkshirePudding on December 13, 2010, 10:17 GMT

    @Something_Witty, it was only last week the Aussies were preying for rain. However, I couldnt agree more, when you start making statements about unbeaten tours before the halfway point is over, you're setting yourself up for rather big fall. Hopefully the pitch at Perth will be a little livelier than the Gabba and Adelaide were. I hope that the match in Victoria was an aberation and one of the 'bad' games that england play in every series. Although, I still think the aussies will come back at England in the next 2 games (and hope they do), though I have less fear that England will roll over as in the days of old.

  • Something_Witty on December 13, 2010, 7:22 GMT

    Trickstar, I'm not quite sure on what evidence you base your comments. I challenge you to find ONE instance of me saying that Australia would whitewash England this series. And I'm not quite sure why you believe me to be trolling, as my comments are almost always entirely from the heart and sincerely intended. I would say you're the one trolling here, cheers. @ dh74, the "fighting Aussie spirit" was merely a stigma associated with the teams led by Border/Taylor/Waugh, and perhaps those of the early 20th century. At the moment, the Australian team's spirit is extremely flat and far more folding than fighting. Personally I'd put it down to poor coaching and some incredibly inept and biased selections/non-selections. Make of it what you will, but currently, the "fighting Aussie spirit" is dead and buried.

  • Trickstar on December 13, 2010, 3:10 GMT

    @Something_Witty You and Popcorn must get together and do a double act. your both a right laugh. I thought you lot were going to make a game of this Ashes, with all your talk of whitewashes and wouldn't be able to take 20 wickets, what is it you lot have taken, 6 wickets for over 1137 runs. You want to worry about your own team instead of trolling around here, they're quickly turning into a laughing stock.

  • HOMEBREW on December 13, 2010, 2:03 GMT

    Maybe with the form of the English batsmen, the aussie side might be best off giving Perth a miss and head to the Bon Jovi concert and request Living On A Prayer.

  • Guernica on December 13, 2010, 0:02 GMT

    It's funny, I keep hearing 'Aus lost the Adelaide test in the first 3 overs'? Surely that contradicts everything we've been taught about this famous Aussie fighting spirit?

  • chokkashokka on December 12, 2010, 22:23 GMT

    This ashes must be the full-employment act for the english writers on cricinfo - at the end of the day, the Ashes is an under-card to the main event that starts on December 16 at the centurion. That's the real heavyweight championship of the world - the two top sides on the planet - someone please allocate the writers to the coverage of the main event.

  • HOMEBREW on December 12, 2010, 21:45 GMT

    I think Australia is going to be in deep doo doo on Thursday. After the loss in England last series the selectors should've started re-building then at least to provide some sort of contest for the now. England will get a gold star at Perth for 20/20, Australia will get 8/20 and sent to the principals office for counciling. Com'n Australia, lift your game!

  • on December 13, 2010, 18:57 GMT

    One can see where the temptation lies though: Currently there's only one team that can claim the title "The Invincibles" - albeit Warwick Armstrong's 1921 side came awfully close until the Big Ship was outwitted by Archie McLaren, something Gideon Haigh has never forgiven old Archie for. Were England to go through this tour unbeaten, they would not only have defended the Ashes in the best possible manner, but also have equalled the performance of Don Bradman's immortal 1948 team. Most likely, this tour presents England with the best opportunity they have ever had and are likely to get for the forseeable future.

  • phoenixsteve on December 13, 2010, 16:57 GMT

    Well,,, duh.... Prior wants England to have an unbeaten tour! I'd be very concerned if he said "we hope to lose a game or two" Every International touring team wants thiis - it goes without saying! can you imagine India saying "we hope to win a game or two but we know we'll probably lose the test series" (This would be realistic but they are not going to say it!) It's an interesting time for England and they must be quietly amused by the headless chicken approach to selection - as shown by the Aussies! I know i am..... Let's hope for another England win in Perth and then we will be sure of retaining the ashes. At least the Aussies have lowered their sights somewhat and will be serving Beer instead of Champagne (Bollinger) but as far as the food course goes; it's going to be the same stuff served up I guess.... plenty of TRIPE! COME ON ENGLAND!!!

  • RednWhiteArmy on December 13, 2010, 11:39 GMT

    3rd in the rankings at the moment after losing the toss & crushing australia by an innings in australia (dont think india or SA have done that recently!), 2 double centurians before perth, young players doing well, records falling left right and centre, confidence, australian selection troubles, graeme swann, competition for places AND a midstrength BEER!

    can we play australia everyweek?

  • YorkshirePudding on December 13, 2010, 10:17 GMT

    @Something_Witty, it was only last week the Aussies were preying for rain. However, I couldnt agree more, when you start making statements about unbeaten tours before the halfway point is over, you're setting yourself up for rather big fall. Hopefully the pitch at Perth will be a little livelier than the Gabba and Adelaide were. I hope that the match in Victoria was an aberation and one of the 'bad' games that england play in every series. Although, I still think the aussies will come back at England in the next 2 games (and hope they do), though I have less fear that England will roll over as in the days of old.

  • Something_Witty on December 13, 2010, 7:22 GMT

    Trickstar, I'm not quite sure on what evidence you base your comments. I challenge you to find ONE instance of me saying that Australia would whitewash England this series. And I'm not quite sure why you believe me to be trolling, as my comments are almost always entirely from the heart and sincerely intended. I would say you're the one trolling here, cheers. @ dh74, the "fighting Aussie spirit" was merely a stigma associated with the teams led by Border/Taylor/Waugh, and perhaps those of the early 20th century. At the moment, the Australian team's spirit is extremely flat and far more folding than fighting. Personally I'd put it down to poor coaching and some incredibly inept and biased selections/non-selections. Make of it what you will, but currently, the "fighting Aussie spirit" is dead and buried.

  • Trickstar on December 13, 2010, 3:10 GMT

    @Something_Witty You and Popcorn must get together and do a double act. your both a right laugh. I thought you lot were going to make a game of this Ashes, with all your talk of whitewashes and wouldn't be able to take 20 wickets, what is it you lot have taken, 6 wickets for over 1137 runs. You want to worry about your own team instead of trolling around here, they're quickly turning into a laughing stock.

  • HOMEBREW on December 13, 2010, 2:03 GMT

    Maybe with the form of the English batsmen, the aussie side might be best off giving Perth a miss and head to the Bon Jovi concert and request Living On A Prayer.

  • Guernica on December 13, 2010, 0:02 GMT

    It's funny, I keep hearing 'Aus lost the Adelaide test in the first 3 overs'? Surely that contradicts everything we've been taught about this famous Aussie fighting spirit?

  • chokkashokka on December 12, 2010, 22:23 GMT

    This ashes must be the full-employment act for the english writers on cricinfo - at the end of the day, the Ashes is an under-card to the main event that starts on December 16 at the centurion. That's the real heavyweight championship of the world - the two top sides on the planet - someone please allocate the writers to the coverage of the main event.

  • HOMEBREW on December 12, 2010, 21:45 GMT

    I think Australia is going to be in deep doo doo on Thursday. After the loss in England last series the selectors should've started re-building then at least to provide some sort of contest for the now. England will get a gold star at Perth for 20/20, Australia will get 8/20 and sent to the principals office for counciling. Com'n Australia, lift your game!

  • on December 12, 2010, 21:14 GMT

    The smell of fear is as strong now as it was before the games started, the aussie supporters can hide all they like but their team are being exposed on the pitch.

    3-0 is the best result popcorn and witty can hope for

  • Something_Witty on December 12, 2010, 21:12 GMT

    landl, firstly I have already stated that I hope the pitch is livelier when it comes time for the test match. Secondly, as you very well know, my reference to "two matches" meant the two Ashes tests. Of which they have won one, drawn one, with three to go. Hang on let me get my calculator out. Ok umm I think that's less than half of the scheduled number of Ashes tests. Yep I'm sure of it, I just checked wikipedia and 2 is definitely less than half of 5. Phew. Glad I got that right. Ok in all seriousness, I'm sure the English would know how quickly a test match can be won or lost. Aus lost the Adelaide test in the first 3 overs, and I'm sure the poms haven't forgotten Headingley 09, where they might as well have shaken hands and conceded defeat at lunch on the first day.

  • landl47 on December 12, 2010, 17:04 GMT

    That's the way, Something_Witty and popcorn, give yourselves some hope. The fact that this pitch was so dead that there had to be three premature declarations and it still ended in a draw means nothing unless you realize that if Australia doesn't win at Perth then winning here is going to be next to impossible. England played in the spirit of the game (for which I give both Strauss and White every credit). The only way either side were going to lose wickets on this track was by trying to attack and you can see from the way the batsmen were out that's exactly what happened. England were still scoring at 5 per over at teatime. When it became obvious that there wasn't enough time to finish the match, Strauss and Prior easily secured the draw. Great to see Prior make runs. Colly and KP put on 101 at Adelaide and Colly has a 94 and an 89, so no need to worry there. SW, I guess maths isn't your strong point. England have played 6 games, won 3, drawn 3. 3 more to go.

  • on December 12, 2010, 16:36 GMT

    78 overs for 1 wicket...the poor return for our back up seam bowlers, one of whom will have to play in the 3rd Test....even Monty got 3....looks like a lot of extra work for Jimmy, Finn and Swanny....or perhaps Collingwood will have to bowl loads as a fourth seamer :S

  • kdcricket on December 12, 2010, 15:07 GMT

    Might just be possible...Kangaroos are on the back foot and Poms are in the form of their lives. BTW this Aussie team simply aint good enough and I am loving that. The strongest domestic structure in the world is not able to produce players who can win in their own backyard..LOL LOL LOL

  • on December 12, 2010, 13:41 GMT

    England bowling looks weak ... But it still looks as good as the Australian attack .... Both the teams are bad in bowling ..... Whichever team bats well will have the last laugh .... So England has the upper hand than Australia as their batsmen are in good touch

  • Morgasm on December 12, 2010, 12:24 GMT

    Loving that last paragraph.

  • jonesy2 on December 12, 2010, 11:34 GMT

    * never cease to be the laughing stock that is

  • jonesy2 on December 12, 2010, 11:32 GMT

    hahahahahahahaa eye an unbeaten tour? they were outplayed by the vics!!! ahaha how are they so arrogant??! they are going to get a rude shock when they awake from this fantasy land! haha oh england you cease to be the laughing stock

  • SamAsh07 on December 12, 2010, 9:44 GMT

    If Paul Collingwood isn't firing, shouldn't England bring in Eoin Morgan?? He may be inexperienced in tests, but he sure can fire, just needs more test matches under his belt. However, I do believe that THE Collingwood will smash THE Beer in the next test.

  • LALITHKURUWITA on December 12, 2010, 9:25 GMT

    Yes, it could happen as Aussie selectors are in panic mood and test players are not sure whether he is in the next test. Also state players are also not sure whether he is playing in the next TEST cricket test. I have never seen the selection panel of a professional country like Aussie in such a panic mood in the last 2 decades.

  • jackiethepen on December 12, 2010, 9:22 GMT

    This game was micro-managed to give our bowlers the best possible outing but almost came unstuck. A three day game is never going to be easy to win and so perhaps the attempt was putting too much pressure on the batsmen like Morgan and Davies who have had no time in the middle before this. Rain and dangerous bowling might have contributed as well. Hard to judge the rearranged top order therefore but Cook looked tired and so did Bell during his interview after his 60* in the first innings. Time off might have been more beneficial so soon after the crucial Adelaide win. Bell confessed how exhausted the team had felt afterwards. But only Trott and KP have benefitted from a rest.

  • Something_Witty on December 12, 2010, 9:14 GMT

    Ahh the pommies saved by rain *again*. It's just like being back in Cardiff/Edgbaston. Also, I think Prior's off stump might have disagreed about his supposedly wonderful form when it was smashed backwards on Prior's first ball of the series. Eniwai. Eyeing an "unbeaten tour" when you've only played two matches is getting a bit ahead of yourself I think, best just to take it one match at a time, it can all change very quickly.

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  • Something_Witty on December 12, 2010, 9:14 GMT

    Ahh the pommies saved by rain *again*. It's just like being back in Cardiff/Edgbaston. Also, I think Prior's off stump might have disagreed about his supposedly wonderful form when it was smashed backwards on Prior's first ball of the series. Eniwai. Eyeing an "unbeaten tour" when you've only played two matches is getting a bit ahead of yourself I think, best just to take it one match at a time, it can all change very quickly.

  • jackiethepen on December 12, 2010, 9:22 GMT

    This game was micro-managed to give our bowlers the best possible outing but almost came unstuck. A three day game is never going to be easy to win and so perhaps the attempt was putting too much pressure on the batsmen like Morgan and Davies who have had no time in the middle before this. Rain and dangerous bowling might have contributed as well. Hard to judge the rearranged top order therefore but Cook looked tired and so did Bell during his interview after his 60* in the first innings. Time off might have been more beneficial so soon after the crucial Adelaide win. Bell confessed how exhausted the team had felt afterwards. But only Trott and KP have benefitted from a rest.

  • LALITHKURUWITA on December 12, 2010, 9:25 GMT

    Yes, it could happen as Aussie selectors are in panic mood and test players are not sure whether he is in the next test. Also state players are also not sure whether he is playing in the next TEST cricket test. I have never seen the selection panel of a professional country like Aussie in such a panic mood in the last 2 decades.

  • SamAsh07 on December 12, 2010, 9:44 GMT

    If Paul Collingwood isn't firing, shouldn't England bring in Eoin Morgan?? He may be inexperienced in tests, but he sure can fire, just needs more test matches under his belt. However, I do believe that THE Collingwood will smash THE Beer in the next test.

  • jonesy2 on December 12, 2010, 11:32 GMT

    hahahahahahahaa eye an unbeaten tour? they were outplayed by the vics!!! ahaha how are they so arrogant??! they are going to get a rude shock when they awake from this fantasy land! haha oh england you cease to be the laughing stock

  • jonesy2 on December 12, 2010, 11:34 GMT

    * never cease to be the laughing stock that is

  • Morgasm on December 12, 2010, 12:24 GMT

    Loving that last paragraph.

  • on December 12, 2010, 13:41 GMT

    England bowling looks weak ... But it still looks as good as the Australian attack .... Both the teams are bad in bowling ..... Whichever team bats well will have the last laugh .... So England has the upper hand than Australia as their batsmen are in good touch

  • kdcricket on December 12, 2010, 15:07 GMT

    Might just be possible...Kangaroos are on the back foot and Poms are in the form of their lives. BTW this Aussie team simply aint good enough and I am loving that. The strongest domestic structure in the world is not able to produce players who can win in their own backyard..LOL LOL LOL

  • on December 12, 2010, 16:36 GMT

    78 overs for 1 wicket...the poor return for our back up seam bowlers, one of whom will have to play in the 3rd Test....even Monty got 3....looks like a lot of extra work for Jimmy, Finn and Swanny....or perhaps Collingwood will have to bowl loads as a fourth seamer :S