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Flower optimistic over Prior fitness

Andy Flower talks to the media following the rain-affected draw with Australia A

Andy Flower expects Matt Prior will be fit for the first Ashes Test despite the wicketkeeper-batsman not fielding today as England drew with Australia A at Hobart.

Prior experienced tightness in his left calf while batting for just over an hour for 26 as, after two washouts, the tourists extended Wednesday’s 318 for none to 430 for seven declared.

Joe Root kept wicket in place of Prior, England’s player of the year for 2012-13 and vice-captain to Alastair Cook, as the hosts responded with 119 for three. Prior’s understudy, Jonny Bairstow, as 12th man, was not allowed to take the gloves.

Speaking to journalists about Prior, England Team Director Flower said: “He’ll go for a scan pretty much as soon as possible. We travel to Sydney tomorrow as you know.

“I don’t think it’s anything too serious and shouldn’t keep him out of the first Test, but lets just scan it and then we’ll give you some more information.”

Flower explained that the tightness in Prior’s calf came towards the end of his innings in an afternoon session that followed a morning when just two overs were bowled due to rain.

Matt Prior plays off the back foot during his innings of 26 before he experienced a tight left calf, which he will have a scan on

“He’s tweaked something in his calf,” he added. “We’re not sure of the extent of it as yet and we need to let it settle a little before we scan it. But he didn’t make it much worse. He was off pretty much soon after he tweaked it.”

England have one more tour match, versus an Australia Invitational XI in Sydney next week, before the Ashes opener at Brisbane from November 21.

Flower expects England’s top seven at the SCG, if Prior is fit to play there, will be the same as in the opening Test. If Prior does not feature at Sydney, then the top six will likely be the Test half-dozen.

“Our policy is to announce the side at the toss and we’re still 12 days away from that,” he said.

“We’ve got another four-day game at the SCG, which should be excellent preparation, and I hope we don’t get affected by rain in Sydney.

“We have got a clear idea, yes, and more than likely the top six, and possibly seven if Matt Prior’s okay to play the game, will be the same top six or seven that we use in Brisbane.”

Flower reflected positively on several individual performances at Hobart: Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry, who scored 154 and 153 respectively while sharing 318 for the first wicket; Joe Root, who struck 58 not out today having dropped down to number five; and England’s bowlers at the Bellerive Oval, including Graeme Swann who trapped Michael Klinger lbw in his first spell of the tour.

“It would have been nice to get a full game in and I think looking at the way the wicket went down, especially on the last day, it looks like a result could have been achieved,” Flower added.

“It was nice to see Cook and Carberry get heavy runs as they did, and they formed a great partnership on that first day.

“Root went on to get an unbeaten sixty-something [sic] today, so that was good for him to spend a bit of time out there and I thought he played very nice and positively.

“And then our bowlers had a little run out; they had a couple of spells each. Swann had his first bowl in competition on tour.

“So we got what we could out of the game. We’ve also had great facilities here. The facilities here and the people in Hobart have been really good to us. It’s been a good six days in Hobart and we move on to Sydney and hope for another good six days there.”

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