Matt Prior unperturbed but England’s batsmen fluff first Test auditions



England’s batsmen can only hope now that it will be all right on the day. They fluffed their lines like a dressing room full of ham actors in the  second and final dress rehearsal yesterday.

When the curtain goes up on Wednesday it may be different. The roar of the crowd and the sense of  occasion – if such can be assured at the University Oval, Dunedin for the first Test – may concentrate minds and hone techniques.

The Queenstown ground, complete with the bizarre combination of scenic mountain ranges and light aircraft all around, is not best equipped in that regard. If there is slight cause for worry, there is none at all to panic but, when England fell to 67 for 4 against a New Zealand XI on the third day of their only warm-up match, it left some of their leading batsmen  uncomfortably short of time in the middle.

Between them the Nos 2, 3 and 4 – Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen – mustered 65 runs in their total of six innings in the match and faced 155 balls. This is probably a case of statistics proving nothing but to a man they would have preferred at least one more match to try to improve on them.

Being unprepared, or at least underprepared for the big occasion is an occupational hazard for international cricketers. When England go to Australia next winter, they will have three warm-up matches and a whole month of practice before the Test series. But that is the Ashes and this is not. One match and 10 days it is and one match and 10 days it will be  almost everywhere.

Had it not been for Matt Prior’s dashing innings England’s embarrassment might have deepened as the afternoon wore on. But Prior played the way he knows best; driving, cutting and re-establishing England’s second innings with 68 from 76 balls. It almost goes without saying that his chief assistant was Joe Root who made only 17 but shared a partnership of 103.

This is Prior’s 10th Test tour with England and he has seen it all by now. He was not falling for the line that England’s batting might be undercooked.

“I don’t think it’s a concern,” he said. “Obviously guys would love to go into the first Test with big hundreds behind them but it’s not always possible. You walk out into the middle sometimes, you nick your first ball and off you go again. The most important thing is going into next week feeling good.

“Getting a score behind you does help but it’s not the be all and end all. The surfaces that we have been able to prepare and train on have been outstanding. It would be great to have a load of warm-up games and have training camps but it’s just not possible with the schedules we have.”

As Prior also observed, it could have been worse and there were those who feared it would be worse. England might have rolled up to Queenstown and found opponents ready to roll over and have their tummies tickled. That would certainly not have helped. Before England played Pakistan in the UAE a year ago they had two fairly soft warm-up matches and proceeded to be hammered 3-0 in the subsequent Test series.

“This for us perfect,” said Prior. “It’s absolutely what you want from your warm-up games, tough, challenging cricket and challenging situations. It’s all well and good turning up and smacking 500 and then bowling them out for 100 in both innings but I’m not sure that gets you anywhere. A day of tough cricket like we had has been brilliant for us.”

The tourists knew they had been in a contest after the third day. Their bowling went the journey in the morning when 125 runs came in 95 minutes and their batting went nowhere in the afternoon.

It was a salutary morning for Graham Onions and an unsuccessful one for Stuart Broad. Onions went for 22 in one over and almost everything he tried went wrong as figures of 1 for 131 testified. After the New Zealand XI declared 77 behind at 349 for 7, which had not been in England’s thinking, Onions stood out in the middle awhile re-examining his run up and delivery stride. He was probably thinking it may be a long month ahead.

Compton mishooked, Pietersen was caught behind down the leg side, Trott flailed at a wide one. Prior  remedied the immediate position and Graeme Swann’s swashbuckling was a breath of fresh air in a place it could hardly be fresher.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas