Time to make up for poor show - Prior
Matt Prior insisted England had no excuses for their capitulation with the bat on the first day of the fourth npower Test at Headingley Carnegie.
There were certainly mitigating factors for England - the players were forced to stand outside their Leeds city centre hotel for more than half an hour following when the fire alarm went off at 4.45am BST.
Prior, 27, the England wicketkeeper, then suffered a back spasm at 10am shortly after the England players finished their football kick-about to warm-up. For a few minutes, it looked like England could be without a gloveman.
To make matters worse, England masseur Mark Saxby was struck on the head by a skier during Australia catching practice. The toss was eventually delayed after agreement with Australia.
England slumped to just 102 all out and the Australians are already 94 runs ahead with six wickets still intact.
“There were a number of things that you could say were distracting but that’s no excuse,” Prior said.
“We’ve all played enough cricket and we’re all big enough and experienced enough to be able to adapt to things, put things behind us and get on with the job.”
Prior’s mood went downhill, however, when his back seized up, as it has done in the past when on Sussex duty.
England coach Andy Flower and captain Andrew Strauss began making contingency plans for someone else to be called in, but a painkilling injection allowed Prior the chance to undergo a fitness check ahead of the 11am start.
“The only thing on my mind was trying to get my breath back and trying to move my arms and legs,” said Prior, following his misfortune.
“I would not have been able to play without that 10-minute delay, so I was very grateful for it and it was very good of the Aussies to agree to that.
“I knew from previous experience that these things only get better and better and I knew that come tomorrow if I didn’t play I’d probably be right as rain and absolutely gutted.
“At the time I probably did punch the air when we won the toss but obviously I was having to walk out there fairly soon.
“And I am stiff now. When you have a back spasm all the muscles are seizing up around the joint and ultimately your body is trying to tell you to stop moving.
“You’ve got to get going again, you’ve got to try and move it, so I had a lot of physio and massage and some anti-inflammatories.”
When play did begin, England soon found themselves on the receiving end of brilliant Australian swing bowling. Peter Siddle finished with a five-wicket haul, his best figures in Tests, and the recalled paceman Stuart Clark claimed three.
Having come into the game potentially five days away from winning back the Ashes, England will have to pull off something spectacular to do so from here.
But Prior said: “We can get out of this. It’s not been a good day, absolutely, and we’re behind the eight-ball but this game turns around so quickly.
“There’s still enough in this wicket, it’s still moving around and it’s still swinging. We still have four days to come back, which is good for us.
“Early wickets tomorrow will be important but I believe we’ve got the bowlers in the dressing room that can certainly do that and turn this game around.
“When we get our chance to bat again there are going to be some very determined players and some very determined batsmen.”
Clark, the leading wicket-taker in the 2006-07 Ashes with 26 victims, was playing his first Test for nine months and claimed half of the half-dozen wickets to fall before lunch.
“It is no secret that I’ve been disappointed,” said Clark, who was overlooked for the first three matches. “I thought I was a real good chance to play in the conditions over here.
“I was disappointed but I am a realist and I understand the selectors have got a tough job as well.
“They went down a different path and to be fair wanted to show some faith in the guys that did well in South Africa.
“The make-up of the team meant I didn’t fit the plans and what the selectors wanted. It was no more than that.”
His disciplined approach did for England once again after home captain Strauss went cheaply to a brilliant slip catch by Marcus North.
“It all sort of went in our favour today,” added Clark. “Maybe it was one of those days when things happen.
“The captain had to open the batting and all this other stuff was going on he has to be involved and make decisions on. I would have imagined his thoughts were a tad scrambled.”
Siddle is now the most prolific bowler on either side with 15 wickets.
He added: “We knew we had to change something and we relaxed a bit and went about our business. I got my goodies at the end there, so that was pleasing. It was all about patience today.”