Keeper but Ste­wart and fac­tor to new heights

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE -

seemed Eng­land’s for the tak­ing when they re­duced Aus­tralia to 175-8 in pur­suit of 282.

The blood drained steadily, how­ever, as Shane Warne, Brett Lee and Kasprow­icz edged their side ever nearer the tar­get, the fi­nal pair adding 59 runs, and only three were re­quired for the Aussies to take a 2-0 lead even Eng­land cap­tain Michael Vaughan con­ceded would have been unas­sail­able.

But Jones, who had de­vel­oped the knack of read­ing Steve Harmi­son’s bumper in ad­vance, trusted his in­stincts, moved to­wards the leg-side early and was ready when Kasprow­icz’s at­tempt at eva­sive ac­tion ended with the ball flick­ing off the No.11’s glove.

Jones re­called later:“I took the ball nice and clean, looked up at Billy (Kiwi um­pire Bow­den) and saw him nod, so I knew he was go­ing to give it out. It took him some time to raise the fin­ger, but I think that was be­cause he was wait­ing for Kasprow­icz to look up at him. Then all I can re­mem­ber is giv­ing some ma­jor stick to the Aussies in the crowd who had spent most of the last day giv­ing me loads.”

One of the rea­sons was they re­garded Jones as one that got away as, born in Pa­pua New Guinea of Welsh par­ents, he had moved Down Un­der as a kid and grown up there, play­ing for the Queens­land Colts in his late teens.

In that mo­ment, how­ever, in the eyes of all Eng­land sup­port­ers there was no ques­tion where Jones now be­longed.The fact that Kasprow­icz should have been re­prieved be­cause his glove was not at­tached to the bat at the time of im­pact was, and is still, re­garded by all right­think­ing peo­ple as a mere tech­ni­cal­ity.

(Tests - 79, Runs - 4099, 100s - 7, High­est Score - 131*, Aver­age - 40.19, Catches - 243, Stump­ings - 13, Most dis­missals (in­nings) - 6. Most dis­missals (match) 8.)

For the early part of his ca­reer, Matt Prior ad­mit­ted, he paid far more at­ten­tion to his bat­ting than his wick­et­keep­ing, treat­ing that as “the other thing I did”.

A bril­liant at­tack­ing run-scorer, when Peter Moores, his for­mer team­mate and coach at Sus­sex, took over the run­ning of the na­tional team from Dun­can Fletcher, Prior was cho­sen ahead of Paul Nixon for the first Test of the 2007 sum­mer against West Indies at Lord’s and he fully jus­ti­fied the de­ci­sion when he be­came the first Eng­land ‘keeper to make a cen­tury on de­but, from just 105 balls, go­ing on to make126 not out.

But he soon found out that runs alone were not enough, and, af­ter crit­i­cism of his on-field chat to the tour­ing In­dian team and a suc­ces­sion of poor dis­plays with the gloves he lost his place to Tim Am­brose on the 2008 tour to New Zealand, the prospect of a pre­ma­ture end to his Eng­land ca­reer forc­ing him to reap­praise and re­turn to the draw­ing board to learn how to be a proper stop­per.

Prior was re­warded when he re­turned for the series against South Africa the following sum­mer, be­gin­ning in­ten­sive work on tech­nique, po­si­tion­ing and foot­work with for­mer Eng­land man Bruce French that helped him im­prove suf­fi­ciently to be­come a three-time Ashes win­ner, in 2009, 2010-11 and 2013 and the heart­beat of the side that topped the world Test rank­ings in 2012.

Un­der skip­per An­drew Strauss, who leant heav­ily on him for tac­ti­cal ad­vice, his part­ner­ships with James An­der­son, close friend Stu­art Broad and, in par­tic­u­lar, off-spin­ner Graeme Swann, were cru­cial to Eng­land’s suc­cess.

The end of his ca­reer was blighted by con­tro­versy over the Kevin Pi­etersen af­fair (Pi­etersen claimed the man known as cheese as in ‘The Big Cheese” was part of a cul­ture of bul­ly­ing in­side the dress­ing room, a view only the dis­grun­tled bats­man seemed to hold) and in­jury as the con­stant strain on his Achilles of the phys­i­cal de­mands of keep­ing wicket took their toll.

But at his best Prior was ar­guably Eng­land’s best ever wick­et­keeper/bats­man.

Re­mark­able at one stage Ste­wart filled the roles of opener, keeper and cap­tain and none of the dis­ci­plines suf­fered no­tice­ably Matt Prior

In­stincts: Geraint Jones

In­ten­sive work: Matt Prior

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