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Matt Prior hopeful England can salvage draw against India

England's cricketer Matt Prior bats during a practice match against Haryana in Ahmadabad, India, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. England and India are scheduled to play four tests with the first test beginning on Nov. 15 in Ahmedabad.  (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki) England's cricketer Matt Prior bats during a practice match against Haryana in Ahmadabad, India, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. England and India are scheduled to play four tests with the first test beginning on Nov. 15 in Ahmedabad. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

Sunday, November 18, 2012
12:26 AM

England did their best to put a “shocker” of a first innings behind them as they followed on 330 runs behind against India at the Sardar Patel Stadium.

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It was hard to make much sense of a day of two halves in which the tourists lurched from 41 for three to 191 all out by teatime to the spin of Pragyan Ojha (five for 45) and Ravichandran Ashwin (three for 80), yet then moved serenely to stumps on 111 without loss.

Captain Alastair Cook tried to lead from the front both times, getting as far as 41 first time round and then an unbeaten 74 at the second attempt in an unbroken century stand with debutant Nick Compton.

With two days remaining in the first Test, it is tough to work out which England will turn up tomorrow.

Wicketkeeper Matt Prior is struggling to make sense of events fo far, but is pinning his hopes on the belief that England have learned the errors of their ways.

“We all know our first innings was a bit of a shocker,” said Prior, whose battling 48 from number eight was England’s best first-innings score.

“As a professional sportsman, you have to look forward - and the way Compo and Cookie went about their business was absolutely fantastic.

“To end up none down at close of play, we’ll take a huge amount from that.”

Prior is both a realist and an optimist.

“We’re still behind in the game, obviously, but it gives us a lot of confidence so we can go out tomorrow and try to bat for a long period of time - which we need to do,” he said.

“I sat here two days before the Test match and said ‘It’s all very well talking - you’ve got to go out and do it’.

“Unfortunately, in the first innings we didn’t do it.

“I think we’re all honest enough to hold our hands up and say ‘Right, we didn’t get that right’.

“Maybe we got a little bit too ahead of ourselves, and a bit panicky.”

Kevin Pietersen was perhaps the least convincing of all, while Ian Bell’s first-ball exit was the most embarrassing after he went down the wicket and was caught at mid-off.

Prior knows of old both are capable of world-class batting, and said: “’KP’ is one of our main batters, but he’s only one player.

“We watched Kevin batting at Headingley against (Dale) Steyn and (Morne) Morkel (last summer), at Colombo getting 150.

“But because he doesn’t get runs today, we can’t all fall apart.

“He’s one player in a team of 11, and we all need to hold our hands up.”

Bell was anxious to dominate Ojha from the outset, but never gave himself a chance.

“Belly is one of the finest batters at hitting over the top that I know, and the one thing we talk about is playing your own game and backing yourself,” added Prior.

“Only Belly will know the plan he had ... and it didn’t come off.

“These are the fine lines in sport. It doesn’t come off, and it doesn’t look great admittedly.

“But you cannot question the quality and class of a batsman like Ian Bell. We all know, and hope he’s going to show it.

“There’s no point sulking. He knows he probably got it slightly wrong. But we’ve got a big second innings coming up, and I’m sure he’ll be as motivated as any of our batters to get a big score.”

Whoever makes good on the start Cook and Compton have made, Prior believes it is still feasible to eke out a draw.

“In the second innings we seemed to be a lot calmer,” he said.

“There are no demons. Yes, it’s turning a bit and bouncing a bit - but you can bat out there.

“It’s certainly not a snakepit by any stretch of the imagination.

“There’s no point crying over spilt milk - you have to move on.

“We knew that we under-performed - no one was more frustrated than the guys sitting in the dressing room - but most importantly, we’ve gone out there (again) and we’re none down for 111.

“That’s a fantastic turnaround.

“We’re still in this game. We’re behind the game, but we’re still in it and fighting hard. That’s all you can do.

“If we get anything from this game, it will be a fantastic effort. But it’s not unrealistic.”

Ojha knows he may have to work harder to see off Bell and Pietersen so cheaply next time.

Of the former, he said: “He has a weakness against left-arm spin. But I won’t be taking him easy in this series, because he’s a very good batsman.”

As for Bell, he added: “I think when you’re playing a five-day Test, and a batsman comes at you like that the very first delivery, it’s a very encouraging thing as a spinner.”

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