Matt Prior 'magnificent' for England in Auckland draw, says Sir Ian Botham
Last Updated: 26/03/13 10:14am
Character stands out
Sir Ian Botham hailed Matt Prior as 'an exceptional cricketer' after the wicketkeeper-batsman gallantly led England to an improbable draw in the third and final Test against New Zealand with an epic rear-guard innings.
Vice-captain Prior followed up his stout first innings 73 with an unbeaten 110 to steer the tourists to 315-9 and thwart the Black Caps' bid for a 1-0 series victory on a tense fifth day at Eden Park, in Auckland.
We have a lot of fight
The 31-year old shared defiant stands of 78 with Ian Bell, whose 75 spanned 352 minutes, and 67 with Stuart Broad who scored six off 77 balls to take valuable overs and time out of the game.
When Broad and James Anderson fell in the space of three balls, Prior and last-man Monty Panesar batted out the final three overs to frustrate the Kiwis.
"It was a magnificent effort," Botham told Sky Sports - all the way through the day no-one gave their wicket away and you could see how disappointed numbers nine [Broad] and 10 [Anderson] were when they got out.
"What more can you say about Matt Prior? He is an exceptional cricketer now. He was absolutely magnificent and Stuart Broad, after a very shaky start, settled in and hung around. It was a top, top effort."
Sir Ian Botham
"What more can you say about Matt Prior? He is an exceptional cricketer now. He was absolutely magnificent and Stuart Broad, after a very shaky start, settled in and hung around. It was a top, top effort.
"A draw sums this series up - the pitch wins in the end. The pitches have been, to be honest, too flat. England kept on trying to make it a bit harder for themselves but they showed great character."
New Zealand's Peter Fulton was named man-of-the-match for hitting a century in each innings but former England batsman Mark Butcher said he would have awarded the honour to Prior for taking five catches in the match and being the bed-rock of each innings.
The Sussex stopper enjoyed some good fortune during his 182-ball stay at the crease - most noticeably when a short ball from Neil Wagner, who had dismissed Bell prior to tea, deflected on to the stumps as Prior took evasive action but failed to dislodge the bails.
Prior's stroke of luck
However Butcher said Prior deserved the moment of luck for his cavalier approach to saving the Test on the final day, which began with England on 90-4.
"That hundred was absolutely stunning," said Butcher, who scored eight Test hundreds for England.
"The irony is that you've got 140-odd overs to bat to save a Test match and the guy that is most successful is the guy who goes out there and plays exactly the same as he would do in any other situation - i.e. he takes the bowlers on, goes for his shots and pretty much plays with a freedom that nobody was able to match.
"Matt had a few close escapes - it was extraordinary how the bails didn't even move after that delivery from Wagner. That was totally baffling and at that point we all thought that it was going to be England's day.
"But nobody can tell me that he didn't deserve it because it was a stunning innings, a real bull-dog performance, and he is a very, special cricketer."
Captains reflect on series
Following the draw, England skipper Alastair Cook praised his side's 'never-say-die attitude' and said he was proud to see his side fight through - qualities that Botham believes will stand the team in good stead for the challenges that lie ahead.
England lock horns with New Zealand again in a two-Test series starting in mid-May before taking on Australia in the first of two Ashes series, which gets underway in July.
With Australia in disarray after a 4-0 defeat to India - a team England beat 2-1 before Christmas - Botham is confident that Cook's charges can go on and retain the urn they won 3-1 on Australian soil in 2010/11.
"When you can see that commitment and that kind of professionalism that they showed today, it's clear that England are in pretty good shape, to be honest," said Botham.
"Everybody had written them off. I was in the hotel room this morning and we had Sky Australia on in the room and all there were saying was nothing about how poorly they played against India, it was about how the Poms were going to get beaten in Auckland.
"This is rather bad news for them and at the end of the day they still lost 4-0. So I'm not really worried at all. England seem to have these little coast-riders where they go up and down but nowadays they save games - they don't capitulate. They stay out there and they get the job done.
"I think they'll be relieved and they'll want to put it all right this summer."