Another priceless cameo proves Prior is the ultimate team player

He will always be remembered for the window that was smashed at Lord's

The Oval

The ethos of the England team built by Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower requires every player to place the needs of the collective ahead of his own, and few cricketers embody this quality better than Matt Prior.

Prior needed injections to assauge Achilles tendon pain before this match and in his last Test, the draw with the West Indies at Edgbaston, the wicketkeeper managed to play despite an eye infection. The cult of the personality is more prevalent than ever in modern sport yet for Prior, all that counts is helping his country to win matches.

There are cricketers, such as Kevin Pietersen, to whom the game comes naturally, and they are thrilling to watch. It can be just a rewarding an experience, however, to follow the less talented sportsman who improves quickly, to the degree that he can be considered one of the world's best in his position.

Such is the case with Prior, who had a difficult start to his international career and was dropped after a tour of Sri Lanka in 2007. Imagine leaving him out now. One-day keeper Craig Kieswetter hopes to force his way into the Test side but the Somerset player is realistic enough to know he is a long way from achieving that aim.

Prior's progress with the gloves has been so rapid that he would be a strong candidate for a place in a world XI and his batting simply strengthens the case for his inclusion. A golf nut, Prior will be following The Open Championship closely and he will know well the kind of shots needed to escape a difficult spot. With England sliding from 267 for 3 to 284 for 6 during the morning session, it was left to Prior to put them back on the fairway.

After 40 minutes of hostile, accurate South African bowling, Prior struck the first boundary of the morning, a four off Dale Steyn. He then had good luck, edging Vernon Philander between second slip and gully and failing to deal efficiently with a bouncer from Morne Morkel. The ball dropped safely, and after reaching 17, Prior was relieved to see Jacques Rudolph spill a chance in the gully.

By lunch, Prior had crept to 32 after a morning dominated by the South African attack. Afterwards, Prior did what he does best and counter-punched, striking a four in each of the first three overs to force the tourists' captain Graeme Smith, playing in his 100th Test match, to re-examine his options.

With Stuart Broad, a similarly assertive batsman, at the other end, Prior was in a situation he enjoys more than any other. A piercing on-drive to an overpitched delivery from Philander brought the Sussex man his half-century, his 20th in Tests, from just 75 balls.

Broad was bowled later in that over but the eighth-wicket pair had added 32 in 4.5 overs after lunch. Compare that with the problems England had experienced during the first session, when they managed just 59 runs.

By the time Prior was the ninth man out, feathering a catch to the keeper off Morkel, England had staved off the possibility of a collapse and were close to reaching a first- innings total of 400.

Prior's runs – he averaged 42 from his 55 Tests before this one – are valuable but so is his contribution in the field. Whether England are bowling well or poorly, Prior is consistently purposeful and enthusiastic.

However the rest of his career unfolds, Prior will always be remembered for the dressing-room window that was smashed at Lord's shortly after he had been run out against Sri Lanka in June last year.

His batting partner that day was a certain Ian Bell and, yesterday, a poor call from Prior left Bell stranded and the batsman survived only because of Alviro Petersen's inaccurate throw.

It was, however, a rare blemish on the work of a man for whom team success will always mean more than personal achievement.

Stats magic: Day two in numbers

18 50 partnerships from Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith.

65.36 Matt Prior's Test strike-rate after another brisk innings.

5 Ducks in Ravi Bopara's 18 Test innings (27.7 per cent.)

5 AB De Villiers took a bunch of catches in the first dig

4-72 Morne Morkel's figures.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible