Prior training display boosts Ashes hopes

 
Frank Dalleres
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ENGLAND injury doubt Matt Prior boosted hopes that he will be fit for this week’s first Ashes Test against Australia with a fluent and unimpeded display in training yesterday.

The experienced wicketkeeper-batsman is battling to prove he is over a calf tear suffered earlier in the tour and that kept him out of the final warm-up game victory over an Australian Invitational XI.

But Prior was well enough to take part in a voluntary yet rigorous practice session in Brisbane, less than 72 hours before the series gets underway at the Gabba on Thursday – or late tomorrow night, British time.

The 32-year-old looked comfortable as he batted for around an hour in the nets before undertaking catching drills. Prior then gave a thumbs-up signal to photographers as he left.

Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow is on standby to deputise for vice-captain Prior, should he fail to recover for the start of England’s bid to win a fourth consecutive Ashes series for the first time since the 19th century.

Bairstow, 24, has never kept wicket at the highest level before but impressed behind the stumps in the second innings of the warm-up contest in Sydney at the weekend.

Prior will be given until the last minute to prove his fitness to play in a 58th consecutive Test match and has admitted tomorrow’s final practice session is likely to be make or break.

The Sussex man, a veteran of the triumphant 2010-11 Ashes tour, is England’s only injury concern as they prepare to defend the urn.

Australia all-rounder Shane Watson bowled in the nets yesterday following a hamstring injury but is tipped to bat only in the first Test.

PIETERSEN IN ROW

ENGLAND batsman Kevin Pietersen has stirred the pot ahead of the Ashes series by dismissing Brisbane, scene of this week’s first Test, as insignificant. Responding to a local newspaper front page depicting him as “so arrogant not even his own team likes him”, Pietersen wrote on Twitter: “No one has heard of Brisbane outside Oz!”