Prior’s waiting to be Bowled over by an historic Test

England wicketkeeper Matt Prior
England wicketkeeper Matt Prior
Kyle Abbott celebrates a wicket today against champions Essex. Picture: Neil Marshall

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Matt Prior has tasked the Hampshire public to play their part in creating the Barmy Army atmosphere at the Rose Bowl.

The wicketkeeper will be in the England side to host Sri Lanka on Thursday as the Rose Bowl prepares to host its first-ever Test match.

And while England have been frequent visitors to the south coast in recent years, playing both one-day and t20 international matches there, the historic five-day contest represents a culmination of the development of Hampshire’s home venue which has marked it out as one of the leading cricket grounds in the country.

Prior said: ‘It’s always very exciting playing a Test match at a new venue.

‘The last one we played in was at Cardiff in that first Test match of the Ashes series.

‘It was their first Test match and the way the local cricket fans got into it, came along and supported the team, was absolutely fantastic.

‘The games we’ve played at the Rose Bowl in t20 internationals and one-day internationals have been absolutely brilliant.

‘The crowds have come out in force to support the England team and helped us have a pretty good record there.

‘Hopefully, that can continue in Test cricket.

‘What they’ve done at the Rose Bowl with the stadium is fantastic and all of the guys enjoy playing there.

‘It’s a pretty good wicket and there’s plenty to look forward to.

‘The Ashes in Australia was something pretty special for any English cricketer.

‘The atmosphere out there was incredible. The Barmy Army had a hugely-positive effect and really lifted us during some tricky periods of the series as well.

‘Crowd support for the England team really isn’t lost on the players so we’re hoping everyone gets down to the Rose Bowl to do the same there.’

It promises to be a busy Test match for Prior, who could barely stay out of the action at Lord’s – even when he was in the dressing room.

He cracked a first-innings century and then shattered a window after being run out in the second innings as, according to reports, his bat accidentally broke the glass.

Prior apologised for the incident almost immediately and, thankfully, only one minor injury occurred to a spectator sat below as glass rained down on the members’ seating area.

Prior said: ‘It was quite a shock but thank goodness nobody was seriously hurt.

‘It was quite a big piece of glass and I know one lady had a few cuts on her foot.

‘But I’ve seen her and apologised and she was absolutely fine.

‘The rest of the members were also very understanding.

‘It was more of a shock for everyone to hear a shatter of glass when you’re not expecting it but, thankfully, nobody was injured.

‘It was a freak accident that unfortunately happened.’

While his window incident was probably not the kind of action he was looking for, Prior relishes his dual wicketkeeper/batsman role for the side – although the Sussex man admits he continues to work on his keeping to improve.

Prior said: ‘I enjoy that role. I enjoy being involved in the game and never want to be out of it, so it suits me.

‘I think I was probably a better batsman who improved my keeping but I have absolutely no idea if that’s the better way to do it.

‘You have to keep both facets of the game at equal levels.

‘You can’t allow yourself to let one slip while you work on the other.

‘You need to work on both skills equally and improve both.’

While emerging Hampshire glovesman Michael Bates has shown his talent behind the stumps, Prior knows only too well that a wicketkeeper must contribute with the bat, rather than just excel with the gloves these days.

He said: ‘If I’m honest, these days your keeper does need to score runs as well.

‘That’s the way the game has gone.

‘Nowadays you’re expecting your number eight or nine and even 10 and 11 to be able to score runs.

‘We’ve had Test matches saved by Jimmy Anderson, Monty Panesar and Graham Onions.

‘The roles have changed and the one-dimensional cricketer is being phased out of the game, I think.

‘The keeper being able to score runs helps the balance of the team immeasurably and helps the coach and captain.

‘Ultimately, the keeper has got to take the chances that come. The job is vital. But ever since Adam Gilchrist started smashing it at the top of the order in one-day cricket and hitting Test centuries batting at number seven, the keeper’s role has changed.

‘It’s very important to get those runs in the middle order now.

‘It’s proven down the years by the statistics that the moment people stop keeping wicket, their batting average goes up by about 10.

‘So it does take its toll, but that’s part of the game and that’s the wicketkeeper’s role in this day and age.’

Tickets are still available for the match and can be bought at rosebowlplc.com.

Prices start at £30 for adults and £10 for under-16s.