Everything 'fantastic' for Prior
Matt Prior might have been standing in for the first time as an England captain, but he proved in Perth that he has already mastered the art of positive thinking. After England's uncomfortable start to the Ashes tour against a Western Australia scratch side, he dubbed pretty much everything as "fantastic".
"The batters batted fantastically," Prior said, a conclusion drawn from the hundreds compiled by Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, rather than a final-day collapse against the second new ball which saw England lose seven wickets for 61 with Prior himself, Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes all falling cheaply in their first knock of the Ashes tour.
Neither did Prior accept the general conclusion in the media that none of England's trio of fast bowlers had made much of a case for inclusion in the first Test in Brisbane. They had taken a mauling on the first day, but Prior preferred to reflect upon a steadier performance against the WA Chairman's XI second time around. "Today the big guys I thought were fantastic," he said.
Boyd Rankin, in particular, was presented by Prior as "fantastic all day". Prior was so determined to maintain England's spirits and sing the tune of Captain Fantastic that it would have been no surprise to discover that the Brown Dirt Cowboy was writing the lyrics.
"I think the fast bowlers improved through the three days and got through that bit of rustiness," he said. "Steven Finn bowled a long spell there, and certainly the last four or five overs he was really hitting his straps again, hitting a great area, and his pace was up.
"Boyd Rankin I thought was fantastic all day. A bloke with such height and good pace and bounce on these wickets could be a pretty useful weapon. Tremlett got better and better and got more rhythm as the game went on."
A three-day affair on a sluggish surface against what, by and large, was a WA 2nd XI might be regarded as possessing only limited value. Not so. "I think we got a huge amount from the game," he said. "I'm very happy sat here after the last three days. In all departments, we gradually got better throughout the game.
"From a fielding and bowling point of view, the first day obviously wasn't great. But there are reasons for that - a bit of rustiness - and that's why we're here four weeks early: to make sure we have the games and to clear the cobwebs before the first Test match."
Prior had a lean Ashes series with the bat and is anxious to remedy that before Brisbane. But anxiety was not allowed to permeate his air of bullish confidence. "If I scored runs in the nets I reckon I would probably have 100 hundreds at the moment," he said. "I've been hitting it brilliantly, moving well, feeling really good. If I went 0, 0, 0, 0 in all these warm up matches but got a hundred in the first Test, I'd bite your arm off."
His PR exercise achieved, he knew it was time for him to step down from his temporary leadership role, with Alastair Cook fit again to resume command against Australia A in Hobart next week. The handover of the baton passed without mishap. "It's been good fun to be in charge and have a little bit of power," he said. "I really enjoyed it, but back to Cooky."
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo