Matt Prior – Greatest Ever English Wicket-Keeper Batsman?

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When someone does something so monumentally brilliant as Matt Prior’s match saving century salvaging an unlikely draw from the jaws of defeat against New Zealand, it’s easy to get carried away.

But not in the case of Matt Prior. If his career was to end tomorrow, he would most likely go down with some phenomenal accolades. These would include:

  • Greatest ever English wicket keeper batsman
  • Finest wicket-keeper batsman in world cricket today
  • One of the top twenty, (perhaps even top 10!) greatest ever English cricketers

I can hear the cries of bullshit reverberating around. To those cries, why don’t you dig a little deeper?

Of English cricketers who have played at least 60 Test matches, Matt Prior’s batting average of 45.56 is the 12th highest batting average.

Since January 1st 2011, Prior has averaged 52 with the bat, which is a staggering feat in itself in a time when ball has dominated over bat. He is a genuine batsman and a genuine wicketkeeper. But that stat doesn’t paint the full extent of Prior’s genius. On episode 93 of One Hand One Bounce, Jonathan Howcroft (@JPHowcroft – follow him on twitter!) uncovered a real beauty of a stat.

Of English cricketers who have played at least 60 Test matches, Matt Prior’s batting average of 45.56 is the 12th highest batting average. That puts him above the likes of Graham Thorpe, Graham Gooch, David Gower, Michael Atherton, Alec Stewart, and Mike Gatting.

England batsman with more than 60 tests

The names he comes above are staggering. When you consider his glovework is impeccable, then you really see his genius. Take Alec Stewart for example. One of my favourite players growing up. He was primarily a batsman and throughout his career had the eccentric Jack Russell snapping at his heels for the keeping slot. With Prior, that question has never even been a thought.

The purists will know doubt say Alan Knott is the better keeper, but did he have as big an impact of the outcome of matches as much as Matthew Prior?

Statistics aside, the true greatness of Matt Prior is his approach to his cricket – the team always comes above Matt Prior. How many times has he batting selflessly in the hope of quick runs to dramatically improve the match situation for England? How much better could his average have been if this wasn’t the case?

Luckily for English fans, Matt Prior is still only 31. He has a good few years in him left. He is perhaps the figure most crucial to keeping the balance of the English side.

Where do you rate Matt Prior in terms of overall greatness?



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  1. sheek says

    You ask a very tough question – has Prior contributed more often to the English cause than Alan Knott? Does his batting heroics outweigh Knott’s keeping virtuosity?

    I’ve been watching & following test cricket since 1967/68 (yes, I’m an Aussie) and Knott is the best pure wicket-keeper I’ve seen in over 40 years from any country, followed probably by Mark Boucher and Ian Healy.

    In terms of batsmen-keepers I would rank them in this order: Adam Gilchrist, Andy Flower and Matt Prior.

    Prior’s batting average is 13 runs more than Knott’s, so a direct comparison is difficult. At this point in time I would still pick Knott as England’s best keeper of the past 45 years, or 70 years, or 100 years, or since the first cricket test of 1877.

    But Prior has the opportunity to change my view over the next 5-6 years.

  2. David Siddall says

    Hey Sheek. Thanks for your comment!

    I think you highlight numerous reasons why it’s such a difficult question. I can see why you’d plump for Knott if wicket keeping was the sole criteria.

    The problem is that wicket keeper is perhaps the position that has evolved the most in recent history. A keeper can no longer be measured solely on their glovework.

    Andy Flower started this trend averaging a staggering 52 in tests (although it largely went unnoticed because he played for relative minnows Zimbabwe). Then Gilchrist absolutely smashed the trend home averaging 47 at a strike rate of 82 in the world beating Oz side.

    Now the yardstick has shifted beyond measure. For example, Dhoni is considered a great in some parts of the world despite his glovework being sub-par.

    We should be grateful that Prior still has a good 5 or 6 years in him!

  3. Raynard says

    Firstly I have to confess I am a Sussex ccc Supporter so may be considered a little biassed in my comments. However stance is in total agreement with David and the point I would make to Sheek is how much the game has changed since the days of Alan Knott. Not only in terms of improvements in equipment but the whole ethos of the game has made the role of wicketkeeper batsman a completely different animal to the era that Alan was part of. In my opinion Matt P is without doubt the best w/b in the world at present but more than that he is the catalyst that fires and bonds the England team.

  4. David Siddall says

    Hey Raynard, thanks for your comment!

    Bias aside, I think you make great points in the way Matt Prior galvanises the England side.

    I’m interested to hear from you as a Sussex fan about Matt P the one day batsman. Why does he disappoint when it comes to one day cricket for England? What has his form been like for Sussex in the shorter formats of the game?

    It probably is better for Sussex that he doesn’t play these formats for England, else you’d never see him!

  5. Raynard says

    Your absolutely right about that but I for one would be very happy to see England give Matt another chance in the shorter versions of the game. Back in the day he was a little, okay quite a bit gung ho. Sometimes it came off but more often it meant an early bath. However he has matured beyond recognition in the last 12/18 months. The only part of his personality that hasn’t changed is his selflessness, everything he does is for the good of the team whether that be England or Sussex. He has always been an attacking player with a very good strike rate but his shot selection is now (I think) second to none among naturally attacking batsmen as evidenced by his heroics in the last test in New Zealand. Andy Flower seems to think Matt will lose something by playing in limited overs cricket. I think he doesn’t know Matt as well as he thinks he does. Come on Ashley give him a chance!

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