x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Prior keen to cement his place

The wicketkeeper wants to improve his ODI record today and make a success of his current slot at No 6.

Matt Prior has only two half-centuries to his name after 52 one-day internationals - and as a player of his Test pedigree, he expects more of himself. The mitigation for England's wicketkeeper-batsman is that, since his debut five years ago, he has inhabited almost every position in the top nine. There has been precious little opportunity for him to get used to one brief before he has been asked to fulfil another instead.

But the 27-year-old, hoping to help England's bid for another victory over South Africa at Kingsmead today to complete a series victory, believed he can make a success of his current slot at No 6. "I've had a lot of time looking at it and thinking about it," he said of an ODI average in the mid-20s - compared to Test statistics roughly around 20 runs per innings superior. "I've now played more than 50 games but I've always played them in chunks. Up until recently, I've had five games here or there and then dropped out - then maybe back for another three, batting in a different position.

"Then out again, and then another four games in another different position. There wasn't really that continuity." Prior is not comfortable hiding behind such explanations, though. "Ultimately, you can't make excuses," he contended. "It is down to me, putting performances in." He is confident too that his achievement graph as an ODI batsman is moving in the right direction as he learns from the mistakes of the early part of his career. "If you look at my record, I've got a huge amount of 20s, 30s and 40s," he accepted.

"Maybe through not knowing my game well enough, feeling a bit of pressure to get on with it - especially when I was opening the batting, or at three - I play one too many shots and get out. "Then there you are, you've got another 40. Then you get a good ball and a bad decision in a series, and you're averaging 15. "It can happen very quickly like that." Prior is hoping that sort of vicious circle is behind him.

"Quite simply, it is just the fact that I haven't yet got that big score, that hundred or 120 or whatever," he believed. "All I can do is say: 'OK, that was the first part. Bag that, keep improving'. "If you take the stats of my first 25 games and compare them to my last 25 I think you'll find there is quite a stark difference." * PA