Today we saw Matt Prior make his test debut … back in November last year I selected him in my choice squad for the Ashes series. Although his normal batting position is at the top of the batting order, I wanted him as my No 7. He had been tried in the 50 over version at the top of the order … more as a pinch hitter than anything else, what people were failing to see, is he is a classical batsman … by that I mean he plays with a straight bat, the only strange thing is that he scores his runs fast.
Today, I was priveledged to watch, at my local pub, an innings by a batsman that has one word stamped all over it … class! This is the man that could bring the England side to the forefront of international cricket. I apologise to my customers, for closing up early today, but, having called for a selection to the team, and eventually seeing it happen, I had to give the guy my support … albeit at a distance. My friend from Yorkshire, who thinks us South Africans dont know about cricket, started admitting that Prior was playing with a straight bat! It is only when a batsman, who plays classical shots … all around the wicket … scores at four or more an over that we know there is going to be something enduring and special. Matt Prior as a batsman/wicketkeeper has a first class average approaching 40 runs (usually a sign that if not in the National side he must be knocking on the door, as a batsman) scored at over 4 runs an over … in the early days of a career, there is nothing special in this, but after 6000 first class runs … there are few who can say they are equals. Four runs an over are the key to building match winning positions, his test debut was a calm 125 at virtually six an over (sort of one day stuff … in a test without fielding restrictions), with barely a false shot. (I didnt like the reverse sweep). Unlike either Collingwood or Bell there was never a shot played where bat and pad were not in the right positions … yet the runs were scored at almost 2 to 1 for balls faced.
Yes! English cricket has a great era in front of it … we only need to sort out selectors who persist in choosing bowlers who can hit second slip on the first ball of test match! Sorry, Harmison, you dont know how to bowl … and until in nets, you can hit the stumps 5 times out of six without a batsman there you would never be in any side where I had any say in selection. Preferably you should be able to nominate which stump you are going to hit … and the ball should pitch just short of a length … then you can call yourself a bowler! I think there are only two, in English cricket, with the potential to do that (at reasonable pace)… Simon Jones and James Anderson. Let us start picking the true talent in English cricket, and not simply transient 'Rock Stars', and, believe it or not, we will start winning … not only in test cricket, but in the one day game as well!
I will return to the subject of 'Rock Stars' … because I dont think the current side has the bowling talent to tumble the West Indies twice in two days. If we are not able to force a follow-on from here we will have to bat again and the game will be in the balance. My friend from Yorkshire has 'kindly' bet we will win within 4 days, so perhaps I wont pay for the next round of drinks!