England must engage Prior for one-day run

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The Independent Online

Sixteen weeks ago the landscape was somewhat different for Paul Collingwood and England's one-day side. Uplifting series triumphs over India and Sri Lanka, and two comprehensive Twenty20 victories against New Zealand strongly suggested that they were at last going somewhere. It was Michael Vaughan and the Test team, following series defeats against India and Sri Lanka, who were under pressure. Collingwood was being talked about as Vaughan's heir.

Subsequently, the one-day team were thumped in New Zealand and the Test side have won three of their last four matches.

Vaughan is now in excellent touch while Collingwood appears to be playing with a round bat. Peter Moores, the England coach, was right when he said, "things move very quickly in sport."

England's one-day squad, which will be announced this morning, remain in transition with the selectors still trying to find out whether some of the players they have tried in the past year are of international quality. The trial will continue in the coming Twenty20 and one-day matches against New Zealand, but the selectors are nearing decision time.

Major tournaments – the Champions Trophy in September and the Twenty20 World Cup in a year's time – are approaching and England need a settled side containing players who know their role.

The two positions of concern to the selectors are that of the wicketkeeper and spinner. Phil Mustard, the Durham keeper, featured in each of England's winter one-day matches without ever convincing people that his batting was up to the grade.

His glovework was excellent and the ability to stand up to bowlers like Ryan Sidebottom, Ravi Bopara and Luke Wright to keep batsmen in their crease is invaluable.

But, ultimately, Mustard will be judged on his destructive batting at the top of the order. In 10 innings he has passed 50 just once – 83 against New Zealand in Napier. He is an extremely popular member of the side but that and his batting may not be enough to keep him his place.

Tim Ambrose is England's current keeper but if the selectors are looking for a replacement for Mustard they need look no further than Matt Prior, the Sussex gloveman.

Prior is yet to shine for England in one-day cricket – 469 runs at an average of 21.3 in 22 games – but he was unfortunate to be dropped for England's Test tour of New Zealand. Yet rather than go away and feel sorry for himself he has knuckled down and continued dealing in the commodity that causes recalls, namely runs. In this summer's County Championship and Friends Provident Trophy he averages 68 and 53 respectively.

Finding a spinner capable of taking wickets in the middle of an innings is, however, another matter. Graeme Swann is the incumbent but, after a good series in Sri Lanka, he disappointed in New Zealand.

Swann has started the season well for Nottinghamshire and he will probably be given another chance to show he is up to it. Monty Panesar is an option but he needs to add greater variety to his bowling if he is to succeed in one-day cricket.

An hour with Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, would be advisable before he returns home in a month's time. Vettori is a magnificent one-day bowler. The problem for England's selectors is that there are not many alternatives. County cricket is littered with spinning all-rounders who have failed cut it – think Ian Blackwell, Gareth Batty, Chris Schofield, Jamie Dalrymple, Alex Loudon, Jeremy Snape and Paul Grayson.

Kent's James Tredwell, who toured New Zealand with England, could feature, as could Samit Patel, Nottinghamshire's exciting young left-arm spinner. Patel has an excellent record in limited over cricket and has scored six first-class hundreds.

The six matches – a Twenty20 international and five one-dayers – give Owais Shah, Bopara and Wright another chance to impress too.

England are not expected to make any changes to their Test squad for the third Test against New Zealand, but one-day runs will not do their reputations any harm. There is also the small matter of Allen Stanford's multi-million dollar match in Antigua in November. There is much to be gained and lost in the coming weeks.

Angus Fraser's one-day squad

P D Collingwood (c) Dur

J M Anderson Lancs

I R Bell Warwicks

R S Bopara Essex

S C J Broad Notts

A N Cook Essex

A D Mascarenhas Hants

K P Pietersen Hants

M J Prior (wkt) Sussex

O Shah Middx

G P Swann Notts

R J Sidebottom Notts

C T Tremlett Hants

L J Wright Sussex