Matt Prior on The Ashes: Confident England have ability to reach top of rankings again

Going to the UAE is a different game entirely. England will be tested out there but they have the ability and the skill to get through it

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1) Nothing worse than when you’ve lost

I’ve been involved in matches when the series has already gone – and it’s one of the worst things you have to do as a cricketer.

You’re away from home, you’ve lost the series and you still have to get yourself up for the game. Every day you’re being reminded of how you lost, how poorly you’ve played – and there’s no escape when you’re in that bubble.

It’s horrible and you try to get yourself motivated to put in a good performance. But it’s really hard to do because the series is gone.

Australia could bring in some fresh faces but, realistically, who’s that going to be? They could pick Pat Cummins but it’s the batsmen rather than the bowlers who have let them down and it seems harsh for the bowlers to take the hit.

It will be the complete opposite for England. They’ll be motivated to put in another good performance and ensure that the Aussies don’t get anything from this Test, any crumbs of comfort.  Ruthlessness is the name of the game.

2) Jimmy won’t take no for an answer

England won’t want to take any risks with Jimmy Anderson at The Oval but they will face an uphill task to keep him off the field. I haven’t spoken to him but if he has a chance of playing then he’ll do all he can to do so. He loves playing Test cricket, he loves playing for his country.

There’s not a player in the world who would want to miss this Test match because you’ve got a chance to beat Australia again and lift the urn. Yes you can go and celebrate in your training kit but it’s not the same as being there, in your whites, having played in the game.

If there’s a risk of him doing more damage and putting himself out for longer then, of course, England won’t play him. But as long as he’s in a safe place from an injury point of view then he should certainly be in the team.

Who should make way? That’s a very tough call. Neither Steve Finn or Mark Wood deserves to be dropped and I think it will be a last-minute decision based on who has got the best rhythm in the build-up to the Test. It’s a nice problem to have.

3) Now Lyth can go out and express himself

Every England player will want to get out there and beat Australia again at The Oval and the best thing in this situation is that the pressure is off. This summer has been all about regaining the Ashes and that has already been achieved.

From Adam Lyth’s point of view it’s a great chance to go out there and really express himself. You’re constantly trying to con yourself that there isn’t pressure but very rarely do you have the chance to just go out and enjoy it.

For a bloke like Adam that’s a brilliant situation. There’s no doubt that he’s a good player because you don’t score the weight of runs that he has unless you are. He needs to go out there and get that score under his belt. If that happens then he’ll be up and running again.

4) Pakistan will be another big test

Twelve months ago everyone was predicting another 5-0 series win for Australia, so to now find ourselves in this position is pretty unbelievable. Winning a series like this will give England a huge amount of confidence but going to the UAE to take on Pakistan is a different game entirely. They will be tested out there but they have the ability and skill to get through it.

What you can’t do is rest on your laurels. We had been crowned the best team in the world and had just thrashed India when we went out to the UAE in 2011. We got steamrollered.

But England can take a whole lot of confidence on that tour to Pakistan and then South Africa. A couple of months ago we were told that England were terrible – the worst team in the world. The funny thing about being an international sportsman in this country is that you’re either playing for the best team or  the worst.

I think England are somewhere in the middle, although they’ve had an outstanding summer. They’re going to be tested this winter and they’re going to need a new set of skills to succeed, but the talent is there. It might take them some time but this side have the ability to get England back to the top of the rankings.

5) Praise for Moores is richly deserved

All the backroom staff have done a fantastic job. Paul Farbrace, Trevor Bayliss and Ottis Gibson all deserve a huge amount of praise. But I think what Alastair Cook said at the end of the Trent Bridge Test was very interesting. He gave Peter Moores a lot of credit. A lot of people will have an opinion on him because his record isn’t good, but what Mooresy does do is build a strong team environment to promote a winning mentality. For Cook and others to mention him after that Test must mean he was doing something right. 

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