Focus: Matt Prior

English: Matt Prior in the field for Sussex du...

With Craig Kieswetter looking to be walking a tight rope with keeping the gloves on for England under Ashley Giles I thought I would do a profile on his likely replacement. The silent protector that is Matt Prior.

Batting and fielding averages
Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
Tests 62 92 15 3326 131* 43.19 5283 62.95 6 24 376 13 173 13
ODIs 68 62 9 1282 87 24.18 1670 76.76 0 3 141 6 71 8
T20Is 10 8 2 127 32 21.16 100 127.00 0 0 11 5 6 3
First-class 219 332 37 11854 201* 40.18 17628 67.24 26 69 547 41
List A 220 202 18 5052 144 27.45 4 28 186 31
Twenty20 83 77 5 1867 117 25.93 1303 143.28 1 11 216 54 44 6

Another one of England’s South African imports, Matt Prior is now a pivotal cog in what fairly recently was (and soon may be again) an unstoppable England Test team under Andy Flower. Despite his birth city being Johannesburg, he played for England age groups all the way up to under 19, as well as England A, before finally getting his chance in 2007 under new England coach Peter Moores, after Chris Read and Geriant Jones had all failed to stake a strong claim in the calamitous 2006/07 Ashes whitewash (let it never be mentioned again).

He first started as an ODI specialist batsmen and used mainly as back up since his One-Day debut in Zimbabwe on December 5th. However, he continued showing his batting class for Sussex and duely earnt his call up to the England team to play the West Indies in May after the previously mentioned Ashes tour. (I said it would not be mentioned again, I will stick to it.) After becoming England’s first wicket-keeper to score a hundred on debut and following up with a strong 76 at Headingley, it seemed England’s keeping dilemma since the retirement of Alec Stewart was over. But of course, as soon as something is seen as being a ‘saviour’ for the England team, does it become sour. His poor batting displays against India later that year led to his keeping being scrutinized. This was emphasized when obvious gaps were made obvious between Stewart and Prior during the tour of Sri Lanka, the main being, Prior couldn’t keep.

Prior’s attitude was also questioned when ‘jelly-bean-gate’ occurred and it appeared he was the main antagonist. Let me describe ‘jelly-bean-gate’ in an Indian version of Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight Rises’…

He was dropped for the New Zealand tour which led to the short tenure of Tim Ambrose. But his batting credentials could not be missed in the County Championship and he was back in the squad before 2008 was over. His keeping had been vastly improved and attitude changed, apart from one incident of smashing a Lords window, which I shall also not mention again. He now sits as the best keeper-batsmen in the world. He would bat at 4 in many of the test teams round the world and if his form continues he will undoubtedly surpass Stewart and rival Gilchrist and Sangakarra as ‘the best ever’.

His omission from the ODI and Twenty20 squads do seem strange for such a cult hero. He powered Sussex to a finals day spot in the Twenty20 domestic competition last year and picked up a lucrative contract with the Perth Scorchers in the Australian Big Bash League. It is also reported many IPL franchise’s are after his signature for the short period he is available. It seems England’s youth policy in these formats is coming to an end as Giles wants his legacy to be a great one in the shorter version of the game.

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