Prior's blazing Ashes show earns him a path out of the bush

England have plucked Test wicketkeeper from Victoria T20 side on a hunch he'll shine as World Cup opener

Conversations with England selectors are invariably incomplete without the mention of meticulous thinking. The implication is that they did not get the team where they are today by picking names out of a hat or playing games of pinning the tail on a donkey. If there was a Nobel Prize for the science of cricket team selection, the present England lot would like to think they were in the running.

Still, it may take a little while to appreciate the precise strategy behind resurrecting Matt Prior's one-day career as the side's wicketkeeper-batsman for the World Cup. It is a bold decision and it may prove to be the right one, but in ditching the present incumbent, Steven Davies, and overlooking Prior's immediate successor, Craig Kieswetter, they have gone back to square one on a hunch, backed by a wing and a prayer, rather than any solid evidence.

Prior will take his place as wicketkeeper and opening batsman in the second match of the Commonwealth Bank series against Australia tomorrow after rejoining the squad last night. Although Davies will stay on as reserve wicketkeeper he is unlikely to feature again this winter. Chris Tremlett, who has also been overlooked for the World Cup, will probably have to play because England's fast-bowling resources are currently stretched.

"We've tried three keepers over the last few years and none really has grabbed the opportunity with both hands," said Andy Flower, coach and selector, in explaining the decision about Prior yesterday. "Steven Davies was originally picked for this series on the back of a reasonable series against Pakistan. There's a few things that have developed in the interim: Prior's good form towards the end of the Test series, Prior's performance with the gloves through the Test series. And our judgement on the fact that we see Prior being more useful in the subcontinent than Steven."

It was the only real surprise in the squad of 15 named for a tournament that England have never won. Davies can consider himself unfortunate to have been so near and yet be so far away, but these are the vagaries of sport. Luke Wright, a welcome, effervescent presence in any squad, has been preferred ahead of the Ashes hero Tremlett. England decided on four seam bowlers, instead of five, to include the extra all-rounder.

Wright has been part of the one-day establishment for two years and it would have been more painful for him than for Davies to be omitted now. But he has not been especially convincing lately with either bat or ball and Tremlett's ability to extract bounce from benign surfaces might have been an advantage in India and Bangladesh, where England will play their six World Cup group matches.

Nobody was more surprised than Prior by his call-up from the Victoria Bushrangers, for whom he had been plying his trade, successfully, in Australia's domestic Twenty20 tournament, the KFC Big Bash. He was in the 30-strong long list for the World Cup but Davies' selection in the series against Australia seemed to have sealed his fate.

Prior said: "I'd be delighted to get the chance to show that I can open the batting in one-day cricket. I don't think that I was quite the player I am now when I was doing the job before. I certainly wasn't as versatile.

"I have never been one to make excuses about anything but I was never certain where I was batting. When I opened I went out with that pinch hitter mentality. I didn't fail often, but the trouble was I would get 20, 30 or 40 and because I was a bit naïve I would play one shot too many. I hope I have learnt when to play the big shot or rein it in a little bit.

"At the moment the England keeper opens the batting and that allows you to play the extra all-rounder down the order," he added. "But it's also the best place for me in one-day cricket."

Flower confirmed that Prior would open the batting against Australia in the second match of the series, but also agreed that Ian Bell was an option, as a player who could bat anywhere from one to six. He took exception to the suggestion that Prior's selection made the process look chaotic.

"I disagree with that completely, selection is not an exact science, is it?" Flower said, thus ending the Nobel hopes. "You couldn't determine before the Pakistan series who your wicketkeeper-batsman would be for the World Cup now, that is much too early. Davies at the time was in superb form, he had scored a lot of runs for Surrey in all forms of the game and in limited-overs cricket had scored them really quickly.

"And he was given a chance to establish himself as wicketkeeper-batsman. In our opinion he hasn't done that well enough, and that is why we have chosen Prior.

"It's very cumbersome, the ICC stipulating that you have to make a decision so early, it's not the first time it has been cumbersome, and it would be nice if we didn't have to make it this early, when you're playing a whole series in front of you. One game into a seven-match series and you're having to announce your World Cup Squad is not ideal at all.

"All three of those keepers have been given a lot of chances over the last couple of years and none of them have really established themselves. So we're making a decision based on what we think is best for this World Cup."

Which is what selectors are supposed to do, and in Prior they have understandably placed their faith after his second rousing Ashes campaign. They could, however, have taken their decision on Davies earlier. Neither he nor Kieswetter have been given abundant opportunity.

Davies has played a mere seven matches, including the last six, which is a mere pebble on the mountain of one-day cricket. Kieswetter, who was a member of the triumphant Twenty20 team, has played 12 matches, in the third of which he scored a hundred, a feat that has so far eluded Prior, but his form slipped badly early last summer in England.

Prior has played 55 matches with a top score of 87. His record in the subcontinent, for which he has been specifically designated as the better man, is nothing to write home about. In 19 matches there he has scored 324 runs at 21.60; in the 11 in which he has opened the batting, he has made 242 at 22, never scoring more than 45.

But the world is once more at his feet.

World Cup squad details: England's XV for the Subcontinent

A J Strauss (capt)

Age: 33, Caps: 114, County: Middlesex, Batting average: 35.76

J M Anderson

Age: 28, Caps: 133, County: Lancashire, Bowling average: 30.32

I R Bell

Age: 28, Caps: 84, County: Warwickshire, Batting average: 36.23

T T Bresnan

Age: 25, Caps: 34, County: Yorkshire, Bowling average: 39.10

S J C Broad

Age: 24, Caps: 73, County: Nottinghamshire, Bowling average: 25.70

P D Collingwood

Age: 34, Caps: 189, County: Durham, Bat/Bowl ave: 36.07/38.63

E J G Morgan

Age: 24, Caps: 56, County: Middlesex, Batting average: 40.13

K P Pietersen

Age: 30, Caps: 105, County: Surrey, Batting average: 42.62

M J Prior (wk)

Age: 28, Caps: 55, County: Sussex, Batting average: 25.38

A Shahzad

Age: 25, Caps: 5, County: Yorkshire, Bowling average: 22.44

G P Swann

Age: 31, Caps: 44, County: Nottinghamshire, Bowling average: 24.63

J C Tredwell

Age: 28, Caps: 2, County: Kent, Bowling average: –

I J L Trott

Age: 29, Caps: 12, County: Warwickshire, Batting average: 44.45

L J Wright

Age: 25, Caps: 42, County: Sussex, Bat/Bowl ave: 21.42/51.26

M H Yardy

Age: 30, Caps: 20, County: Sussex, Bat/Bowl ave: 16.27/47.71

Suggested Topics
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor