August 2009
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John Stern: Under-rated Prior deserves praise

August 25th, 2009 by John Stern in England, Test cricket, The Ashes


In a series of fluctuating form and fortune, let’s hear it for Mr Consistent, the unloved under-rated England gloveman.

After the third day’s play of the Lord’s Test, Matt Prior faced the press. He was asked about Brad Haddin’s iron-gloved display in in England’s first innings.

He smiled wryly, as if to say: “Are you blokes for real?” Prior remembers, even if the journalists chose not to, of the relentless character and technique assassination during phase one of his Test career.

He was hardly going to climb into a fellow keeper, even an Aussie one. Prior dutifully made excuses for Haddin about the wobbling around more at Lord’s than elsewhere and other such dressing room platitudes.

Despite making a century on Test debut in 2007, Prior soon became an emblem of England’s post-2005 malaise: charmless, over-rated, all mouth and no trousers. He was at the heart of the jelly-bean fiasco against India, guilty by overheard word rather than deed. He reached a nadir in Sri Lanka that winter when he lost the ability to catch.

Since his return the following summer, he has improved beyond measure. His batting was on the right side of useful, sound in technique and ticker. He scores first-innings runs (averaging 53 to 31 in the second innings), which is a useful barometer of a batsman who can handle pressure.

But his glovework in the Ashes was unobtrusively excellent, the zenith perhaps his first-innings catch at The Oval to catch Mitchell Johnson, whose edge off a full-blooded drive found the palms of Prior’s gloves, standing up to Graeme Swann. He’s not Alan Knott but he’s at last presentable.

He is no longer the gobby South African-born stumper, he is part of the determined, modest ambition of the embryonic Strauss/Flower era. No open-top bus parade for these boys, the fifth best Test team out of nine.

And that, without wanting to get too 1950s about it, is the way it should be. Sunday was a great day, never to be forgotten but let’s try to build on it this time rather than piss it away in the Prime Minister’s garden.

Who knows what state we’ll be in the next time Australia come here but with the two Andrews in charge, I feel we’re in good hands.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | No Comments »

Jrod: An experience I will never forget

August 25th, 2009 by Jrod in England, Test cricket, The Ashes


I am racking my brain thinking of something more torturous for an Aussie cricket fan than sitting at The Oval on Sunday. Watching Paul Harris bowl? Maybe.

Little else could compare to being an Australian with 22,500 screaming English fans as they bayed for your team’s blood.

On the first day at The Oval the atmosphere was something you would expect at the first speech of an accountancy seminar.

By day two the crowd had found their voice because of Stuart Broad.

Then it was non-stop noise, save some nervous silences. Shagging Matilda was sung. Aussies were made fun of. Singles were given 30 second cheers. Streaky 29s had standing ovations. And each wicket was celebrated like the birth of an extremely attractive baby.

When there was no hope left all Australians took it differently.

My mate left. My mum threw her hat. My dad swore. And I tried to work out the meaning of life.

Then we all drank.

About 12 minutes after Michael Hussey’s dismissal I was in the pub, where the TV was blaring with the game anyway, and I drank three pints in record time.

I needed to drink out the loss, not the crowd. They were great.

I have never been to an Ashes deciding Test – in Australia they are usually decided at the Gabba toss.

So to be in the ground when the Ashes was about to be won was amazing.

The anticipation of the crowd, nervous silences during partnerships, their inability to accept they couldn’t lose, the false starts, the Harmy hat-trick attempt, and the frenzied noise was intoxicating.

All the Aussies with me agreed. We were at something special, even if it was our own crucifixion.

It was an experience I will never forget, and one I never want to relive.

Jrod is an Australian blogger, and now author. His book The Year Of The Balls 2008: A Disrespective is available now

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | No Comments »

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