Ashes 2015: Matt Prior - Headaches aplenty now Aussies have their 'mongrel' back

EXCLUSIVE COLUMN: Five things we've learnt from the Second Test

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The Independent Online

No one bounces back like the Aussies

One of the things I’ve always admired about the Australians is their ability to bounce back, they’ve got this mongrel in them, this never-say-die attitude.

All the momentum was with England leaving Cardiff and they would have been looking to bring that here, win the match and effectively win the Ashes. From the toss on Thursday, though, all that momentum has been lost.

The partnership between Steve Smith and Chris Rogers on Thursday completely knocked the wind out of England’s sails.

The real danger for England now is that the Aussies are on the front foot. You saw that when they bowled on Friday evening. Those bowlers really tore into England and we didn’t have any answers.

 

Tensions will come to the surface

If anyone thinks that Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson are sat in that dressing room pleased with the pitches we’ve seen this summer then they’re off their heads. Their hearts would have sank on that first morning, firstly when they saw the surface and secondly when they found out they were going to have to bowl first on it.

The pitches in this country have to improve and I don’t for one minute believe that England have asked for these kind of wickets. You have to give credit to Broad because he bowled really, really well in that Australian first innings but as Jimmy and Mark Wood found bowling on this surface on the opening day, when potentially there should be a bit of lateral movement and a bit of pace, it was a pretty thankless task.

For me, it’s one of the great things about playing in Australia. Yes, we lost the 2013-14 series on quick wickets but there was always something going on, always something in it for the bowlers and plenty in it for the batsmen too.

We saw that at the World Cup Down Under too , the Australians have got their preparation pitch- perfect. You can’t say the same for us.

You have to build pressure

If the ball isn’t swinging or seaming then wickets are going to be hard to come by. You have to build pressure, bowl in good areas and build an intensity in the field. If the ball isn’t doing anything then you still have to create those opportunities.

It’s to England’s credit that no Australian batsman really went hell for leather and someone of Michael Clarke’s quality only scored seven in 32 balls. If you get a team down then you can score at four an over really comfortably but the Aussies didn’t do that.

As for the batting, the way that Alastair Cook and Ben Stokes fought back yesterday was superb. England were in a huge hole and could easily have been skittled, but they did brilliantly yesterday morning. Cook was superb but we shouldn’t be surprised, this situation was perfect for him. He deserved a hundred but he looks in great form, there’s one just around the corner.

Soft up top – the ongoing problem

There’s an alarming pattern of England losing early wickets – it started in the West Indies and it has continued right through the summer. You can’t get away from that. Joe Root has come in batting at five and saved the day on many occasions but you can’t keep putting that pressure on him because sooner or later he’s going to fail.

The person I really felt for on Friday was Jos Buttler. He only let through eight byes, which is a sensational effort in a score of that size, but after you’ve been in the field for over a day and a half you just want to get off the pitch and try to switch off.

When wickets are falling like they were after tea you can’t do that and that can really hurt the dressing room. The one thing you hope for is a solid opening partnership. Yes, you can lose a wicket to the new ball, but you need a decent start from your top four, a sound base to build from.

Your bowlers and your keeper need that as much as anyone but that’s not happening at the moment and it’s turning into England’s biggest headache.

Lord’s is special – not just for us

In 2009 we had a long conversation and talked about how we hadn’t beaten Australia at Lord’s since 1934. We said: “This isn’t just the home of cricket, it’s our home ground, we know Lord’s best and we’re privileged to play there more than anyone else – we have to use that home advantage.”

The fact is, though, that for a lot of cricketers a Test at Lord’s might be their only chance to get their name up on the honours board – that’s a huge motivation. You’re always fighting the fact that just coming here is going to lift the opposition’s spirits.

In 2009 we made a real point of making sure we lifted our game as much as the Aussies. I loved playing at Lord’s – even if I did have an unfortunate incident with a window, against Sri Lanka in June 2011 (below). I think I did Lord’s a favour as the panes of glass needed reinforcing. Let’s hope England don’t crack so easily for the rest of the summer.

Matt Prior won three Ashes series with England during a career which spanned 79 Tests between 2007-14

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