19 March 2009

The Prior paradox

England are unsure as to what their best limited overs team is, with one major talking point being the omission of Matt Prior. Steve Davies was handed an international debut in Sunday’s Twenty20 match against West Indies, an apparently bizarre decision considering Prior’s current excellent form.

Prior was one of England’s many batting successes in the Test series and his overall record of 960 runs from 16 Tests, at an average of 48, rightly suggests he is capable of batting in England’s top six. His wicket-keeping remains under scrutiny, but it is widely accepted that keepers’ frailties are less exposed in limited overs cricket.

Davies looks set to retain his place as opener in the forthcoming One Day series, but we really shouldn’t be surprised. The England management tries (sometimes unsuccessfully) to keep ODI selection distinct from Test and Prior’s record in coloured clothing is poor.

He averages just 22.75 from his 33 ODIs, passing fifty only once. This is a particularly poor return for a batsman often used as an opener – he is more than just a ‘pinch-hitter’ – and Prior paid the price for his run of low scores in India before Christmas, ending the series at number nine in the batting order.

Prior is a naturally aggressive batsman seemingly well-suited to One Day cricket, but this disparity in his records is not unique for players who like to attack in Tests.

Michael Slater represents the best example. The Aussie dasher loved to throw the bat at the top of the order in his 74-match Test career, but he struggled in ODIs, averaging just 24.07 from 42 matches. His ODI strike rate of 60.40 reveals the extent to which he failed to transfer his Test form to the One Day format.

Of course many natural aggressors succeed in both formats, but sometimes this style of player fails to adapt, seemingly confused by the space on the boundaries that should suit their game. One Day cricket is all about flexibility and maybe Prior has not yet discovered it.

Written by Philip Oliver

1 comment:

John said...

If he is opening most of the time, and giving England quick starts, then an average of 22 is not necessarily terrible.