England are taking no chances as they prepare for tomorrow's opening World Cup match against the Netherlands in Nagpur – right down to refusing to play ball with the Dutch when it comes to virtual cricket.
Andrew Strauss's team need no reminding that the men in orange caused major embarrassment by beating them in a World Twenty20 game at Lord's in 2009 and they are determined there will be no repeat in the 50-over format – so determined that, according to the Dutch, cheeky requests to borrow video footage of Jimmy Anderson and Co have been rejected.
"The funny thing is there is a new practice facility called 'ProBatter' with a hole in the screen where the ball pops out from footage [of various bowlers so batsmen in the nets feel like they are facing the real thing]," said Netherlands team manager Ed van Nierop. "The boys really like that the England team management refused to give us the footage of the England bowlers, so they must be a little afraid of us!"
What England must be, of course, is respectful. And they are, insists Matt Prior. "Netherlands are a team you absolutely cannot be complacent against," said the keeper-batsman. "We've seen what happened in the past and we don't want that to happen again."
A few weeks ago, Prior was expected to watch the World Cup from home. Then, having been recalled to the one-day squad at the last minute instead of Steve Davies, he seemed certain to open the batting. Now, with Kevin Pietersen promoted to the top of the order, Prior is being cast as England's "finisher" – the middle-order batsman with the responsibility for seeing the team to a big total or guiding them to a target.
"The middle overs in this World Cup are going to be very important, playing the spin and with the seam bowlers using a lot of cutters and slower balls – trying to manipulate the ball around," said Prior. "It is going to be hard, but playing on the subcontinent is something I feel confident about, so I'm looking forward to it.
"The minute anyone says the word 'finisher', you panic a little bit and think: 'That's a lot of responsibility.' But I love being a part of a team, and you want to be a cog in the wheel and one of those that wins games and helps set up games.
"Being a 'finisher' gives you the responsibility, and I enjoy that. I don't think Eoin Morgan's boots can be filled – he's a phenomenal player – but I'll certainly try my best."
If Prior could pick his own position it might not be six. But he knows he cannot – so will continue to give it his best shot, wherever he is deployed. "I've always thought opening suited my game better," he said. "But the way the last couple of games have gone I've found a tempo I'm very comfortable with.
"I don't think, opening, I managed to get that tempo ever – which was hugely frustrating, because I know that if I get that tempo right I can be very, very successful. Right now, this role is suiting me – and I feel very comfortable in it."
Prior averages only 25 in ODIs, compared to almost 43 in Tests. "People throw stats around and say your one-day stats aren't that good," he said "They aren't. But I'm working very hard to improve them."Reuse content