Prior: England will not enter sledging contest

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The Independent Online

The Ashes and sledging go together like stumps and bails but England are seemingly determined to for once avoid any slanging match with Australia. Matt Prior, the visiting wicketkeeper, insists that if one-liners and wise-cracks rear their head over the next three months, they will come from the home team.

Prior's twin role either side of the stumps is sure to mean he finds himself regularly in the thick of the battle. He believes it is up to each batsman to work out how best to deal with any pointed remarks but makes it clear there is no intention on England's part to engage in verbal warfare.

"It's a very individual thing, hugely so, certainly from a batsman's point of view," he said. "Everyone has a different way of responding to it. That's for you to work out yourself."

With the ball in their hands, England believe catches held and runs stopped are far more effective in stifling the opposition than any unwarranted remarks.

"When we're in the field, I don't think sledging will be something we're going to go into any Test match looking to do. We will focus on building intensity through our skills, bowling and fielding well and taking our catches and creating a natural energy by buzzing around. I don't think we need to say too much or get into a war of words."

There has been plenty of instructive chat already, though, between those in the England squad – like Prior – on their first full tour of Australia, and those who have been here before.

Those previous expeditions brought no success – England's last attempt four years ago resulted in a humiliating 5-0 whitewash – but Prior senses they could be about to bear fruit in this campaign. "It's no different wherever you tour – you pull on the guys who have been there most and are the most experienced in the conditions," he said. "Coming into new conditions, you have to adapt as quickly as you can. One of the ways of doing that is by pulling on experienced players to find out what they went through and how they changed the way they play, if they needed to."

Prior is heartened by his first impressions of how to ply his trade Down Under. "I'm a bit nervous saying this. But Australia for a wicketkeeper is quite a nice place to come. There is carry on the wickets, and you stand a fair distance back. The main thing that is different to England is there is not that wobble you may get with the Dukes ball – especially at places like Lord's and Headingley, where it can make you look silly at times. But it still offers the same challenges: you have to get used to the heat again and make sure you're fit enough to give the energy you want as a wicketkeeper and the engine room of the fielding side."

Prior reports, too, that England are operating on the principle that it is just as important what they do off the field as on it. "Over the last 18 months, two years, this team has worked in a different way; we've worked very, very hard on the training ground and used that ethic of 'prepare hard, play easy'.

"In our hotel we're pretty relaxed, no one looks too uptight. But on the training ground and in the nets, that's the time to turn it on. That's when you can see the intensity turn up. You get confidence from your preparation."

22 days to the Ashes

Sir Leonard Hutton was 22-years-old when he scored 364 against Australia in 1938. England won the match by an innings and 579 runs; a Test record victory. He remains the only Englishman to hit a triple-century in the Ashes.