The Ashes 2010-11 December 12, 2010

Prior finds touch as England eye unbeaten tour

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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

  • dummy4fb 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!

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