Ashes 2015: Matt Prior tips 'class' Alastair Cook to top score in Ashes

Cook has hit two Test centuries in the last two months

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The Independent Online

Matt Prior says he would not be surprised if Alastair Cook ended this summer’s Ashes series as the leading runscorer after praising his mental fortitude during a testing 12 months as England captain.

Cook may have lost the one-day captaincy, a coach in Peter Moores and more than a few nights’ sleep during a difficult year that saw not only his form with the bat suffer but also his leadership of the Test team widely questioned.

However, the 30-year-old opener will approach the Ashes with a spring in his step having overcome the debilitating run in Tests that saw him go almost two years without a century and the injection of optimism into English cricket emanating from the resurgence of the one-day team in recent weeks and the installation of a new coach in Australian Trevor Bayliss.

It’s no coincidence Cook’s form has picked up since being sacked as one-day captain last December, that 22-month spell without a Test hundred broken in Bridgetown last month and followed up with a match-defining 162 against New Zealand in the opening Test of the summer at Lord’s.

In all Cook has failed to pass 50 only twice in his past eight Test innings and it is a run Prior believes could be ominous for the Australians.

The Ashes-winning wicketkeeper, who retired earlier this month at the age of 33 after failing to recover from an Achilles injury, said: “Alastair Cook is just a class human being. The amount he has gone through, I think, has been unfair. It’s been hard for him to deal with. But mentally he is a very, very tough character and I just love the way he has come through. He’ll take a lot from coming over so many obstacles.

“You’re always going to have your peaks and troughs but your class performers can hang in and make sure when their time comes around again they really cash in. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alastair Cook was top runscorer in the Ashes. That’s the way this game can go.

“He’ll be one player Australia won’t want in form because he will bat for days. In England, with good outfields and good batting decks he’s going to score a lot of runs.

“The other thing is, he’s the captain of the team and if the captain is performing that just spreads through the rest of the team.”

The first of Prior’s three successive Ashes series came in 2009 when Andrew Strauss was captain. Back then Strauss took over the team in the wake of the fall-out between Kevin Pietersen and Moores that saw both men lose their respective jobs as captain and coach.

His first two decisions when he took over as England’s director of cricket role last month were to sack Moores in his second coming as coach and inform Pietersen his hopes of playing for England again were all but over.

It was a tough start and saw Strauss attract plenty of criticism. Prior, though, thinks his former team-mate is tailor-made for the role.

“Strauss is the perfect man for this job,” he said. “There are so many similarities at the moment with 2009 with the Moores and KP fall-out and the way Andrew came in as captain and turned things round was so impressive. Of course Andy Flower was involved as well as coach  but you can’t underplay Andrew’s hand in how he turned things round.

“OK, he’s in a different role now but it’s the same job really. He will make decisions based on what is right for English cricket.”