Prior looks out of his depth as hapless tourists go down without a fight

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The Independent Online

There was a brief and fierce deluge over the Galle Stadium yesterday, which held up play for nearly three hours. It would have had to unload several inches more, however, to rival England as the biggest shower of the day.

In all disciplines of the game on the third day of the third Test, the tourists were found wanting. Before our very eyes was the epitome of a team who could not bowl, field or bat in that order.

Somebody had to front up after this and it fell to Paul Collingwood whose 29 made him the top scorer (he avoided singing and dancing). "We can't make excuses," he said. "So far in the Test match we haven't been on the ball. We are going to have to show a lot of guts and determination, pride, passion, to try to salvage something out of this game.

"If we can get a draw from here it will be a miraculous result. I can't think of many worse days and there are a lot of very disappointed people in the dressing room. It's not for the lack of trying or passion, the desire is definitely there. These days do happen in sport."

England were as dreadful as Sri Lanka were wonderful. This often happens when one team is superior to the other the gap widens as confidence grows on one side and diminishes on the other. Considering that they were weak in all categories it seems cruel to single out one player in one department. But Matt Prior, the wicketkeeper, will need all his much-heralded robust temperament and tough mindedness to come back from this, should the selectors allow him the chance.

Yesterday morning he reprieved Mahela Jayawardene for the second time, his third miss of the innings, his sixth of the tour and the 11th of his career spanning 10 Test matches. Consider that Geraint Jones, his controversial predecessor but one, had a mere 13 errors (11 catches, two stumpings) in his first 18 matches. Jones begins to look like Alan Knott by comparison.

Most of Prior's mistakes have been eminently avoidable. At present he would make a better job of playing all 27 of Mozart's piano concertos while wearing wicketkeeping gloves than using them in the role for which they were designed.

The importance of his role is enhanced because the slip cordon is so weak. It needs the keeper to be strong. Pity because he has batted well on the tour and, errors apart, kept tidily. "I still think this team is moving in the right direction," said Collingwood. "Some-times you can benefit from these kind of blows, they can make you a stronger and better player in the future." The future seemed a long way away for poor Prior.

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