Prior warning

Last Updated: 04/01/08 1:34pm

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Prior: cost England runs

Prior: cost England runs

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Bob Willis was not at all surprised to see Matt Prior dropped from England's squads for the forthcoming one-day and Test series in New Zealand.

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"Matt Prior has been very, very poor and he has probably cost England a thousand runs behind the stumps with the chances he has missed - both catches and stumping."
Bob Willis Quotes of the week

The Sussex wicketkeeper was surprisingly left out after the selectors opted to include his former Hove team-mate Tim Ambrose, who enjoyed an excellent season for Warwickshire and was part of England's Performance Programme squad.

Sky Sports pundit Willis welcomed the decision because he felt Prior had cost the team "a thousand runs" in recent matches, even though he averaged more than 40 runs with the bat in Sri Lanka.

He told Sky Sports News: "It's a very brave move and I am in total agreement with it in terms of his wicketkeeping. He has been very, very poor and he has probably cost England a thousand runs behind the stumps with the chances he has missed - both catches and stumpings.

"It's a brave decision and ironically the keeper that Peter Moores preferred at Sussex was Prior ahead of Ambrose, who had to go to Warwickshire to get his opportunity. And now he jumps into the Test match team without any experience at all.

"I feel it will be Ambrose who plays in the Test team and Phil Mustard will act as cover for a front-line wicketkeeper and he will be England's first-choice in one-day cricket."

Willis insists Prior will feel hard-done-by after strong performances with the bat in recent Tests, but insists he has been too far off the required standard behind the stumps.

Feet in concrete

He continued: "I think he will be surprised to be left out because averaging 40 runs per innings as a batsman is clearly not a bad effort.

"But the fact is that his feet are in concrete when he's keeping wicket. He doesn't move his feet early enough and he's always diving for catches which he should move over and take with ease.

"He's not a natural catcher of a cricket ball and he's been embarrassed behind the stumps, much as Geraint Jones was before him."

Willis also feels that Ambrose is far from a natural wicketkeeper himself, but feels the selectors' decision is based on the fact that England will not be as reliant on Prior's runs against a poor New Zealand bowling attack.

"The selectors and the England management have been obsessed with having a wicketkeeper that can score runs," he added.

"But they've really neglected that the fact that his first job is to keep wicket, take catches and make stumpings.

"This is exacerbated by the top six not making runs - Alistair Cook was the only one to make a century in Sri Lanka. They now need to start getting hundreds and two hundreds like we are seeing from other test match nations.

"New Zealand's attack without Shane Bond is a pop-gun affair and England's batsmen really should be filling their boots - all the more reason why the best wicketkeeper should be selected.

"Ambrose, like Geraint Jones and Prior, isn't a natural first-choice wicketkeeper, but England are so desperate to get runs from that position at number seven that once again they have gone with an all-rounder rather than a specialist."

The other significant talking point was the return of Andrew Strauss to the Test squad with Ravi Boapara missing out.

And Willis, who represented England between 1971 and 1984, feels we could see a rejuvenated Strauss after his enforced break during the Sri Lanka tour.

"Strauss will be much better for the break, but he will need to perform and so will the rest of England's top six," he added.

"It was an interesting decision to leave Bopara out and go for Owais Shah. But let's face it, making runs against New Zealand's attack should be a lot easier than against Sri Lanka.

"Both Strauss and Shah should enjoy that, so it will be interesting to see who takes up those first six places in England's order."

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