Prior: We are here to win World Cup
England are determined to complete this winter’s unfinished business, by finally doing themselves justice at the World Cup.
Hard graft and default have combined to help them sneak through Group B into the quarter-finals - and they know it.
But they are just as aware they have the ability to perform much better than they have managed so far.
Matt Prior could be forgiven for having much on his mind today, as the fulcrum of England’s performance in the field from his position behind the stumps and trying to figure out why he cannot score more runs at the top of the order.
But even as he waited to discover whether England want him to continue in his opening role alongside captain Andrew Strauss, the wicketkeeper-batsman could still see the bigger picture.
England will need to rediscover a long-lost consistency if they are to win their next three matches, starting with Saturday’s quarter-final against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
But should they do so, on the back of this year’s first Ashes series victory in Australia for a quarter of a century, they can all count on being household names for the rest of their lives.
As far as Prior is concerned, it is a prize worth fighting for - even at the end of such an arduous and exhausting winter.
“We came here to win the World Cup, and if you leave having not won it you will be disappointed. You haven’t achieved your goal,” he said.
Prior acknowledges England have been well short of their best in a stuttering campaign so far, but insists that will matter little if they can make the necessary improvements in time.
He said: “We have fought very hard as a unit. We’re at the sexy part of the competition - the knockout stages - and everything that has gone on before is irrelevant.
“There are no points boards to look at - it’s win or go home - and that in itself is going to bring a lot of adrenaline and a lot of energy to the team. We have three games to win and we are world champions.”
The great Australia team of the past decade twice followed Ashes victory with World Cup success in the same winter. But England are well into uncharted territory.
“To win an Ashes and to win a World Cup in a winter is something quite phenomenal,” added Prior. “It’s something all these guys in this dressing room are fighting to do. Anything short of that, and we’ll be disappointed.
“You can’t look back and think ’that was okay, tick boxes and we don’t mind that’. We are here to win it. We haven’t played well. Everyone knows that - it’s been quite blatant. But we are in a quarter final - anything can happen.”
Several elements need to click for England to get the better of the world-class opponents awaiting them.
In the first instance, whether or not master off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan can defy a hamstring injury to try to end his wonderful record-breaking career on an appropriate high, Sri Lanka are a richly-talented team.
England, meanwhile, have had ’issues’ but have done just enough and Prior said: “There is no doubt this unit has pulled through a lot of tough times and a lot of tough conditions and situations.”
“You don’t do that unless you are a tight unit that sticks together. As a bowling unit and fielding unit, all together we are starting on an upward trend. That’s important, because you don’t want to be peaking too early and play all your best cricket in the group games.”
As for his own struggles with the bat, Prior remains convinced he can still prove the doubters wrong, although he knows he may have to move back down the order, and will trust in whatever decision England make.
“I don’t think any batsmen in the top six or seven has the argument about where they bat. That is a strength of ours.
“Do I want to open the batting? Of course, I do. I love opening the batting. It gives you the best opportunity to bat 50 overs and get a big score on the board for your team.
“It hasn’t gone to plan, and that’s a big frustration for me. But I don’t feel far away and I’ve no doubt there is a big score round the corner. I am hitting the ball well - if one or two things go by my way I’m certain I will get a big score.”
Sri Lanka are hoping Muralitharan can make at least one more big gig. He was restricted to a light 20-minute bowling session in the Premadasa Stadium nets today.
But coach Trevor Bayliss said: “We’re fairly confident he will play, and I think he’s pretty confident as well.
He’s a guy who’s played through a few niggles in the past, and I’m sure he’ll be fine come game day. He’s certainly an important part of the team.”