Prior Refinements

Five compelling days at Lord's are hard to distill down to an individual, coherent memory, because there was so much to enjoy. Pietersen's unusual but ultimately commanding double century, Dravid and Tendulkar batting together after lunch on Saturday and briefly threatening to produce something to match the breathless hype, the resurgence of Stuart Broad, the skilled swing bowling of Praveen Kumar and Jimmy Anderson.

But, in my dotage, I suspect I'll settle for Sunday. Sunshine which sharpened to brilliant evening light, a packed, enthralled, crowd, and the sublime batting of Matthew Prior, surely now the finest wicket-keeper batsman in the world.

In many ways there's little that is sophisticated or unusual about what Prior does, but he does it with such style and composure, and, yes, intelligence, that you long to watch him again and again.

And, as you do, you notice refinements which aren't immediately apparent, such as the way in which, confronted with a deep off side field designed to neutralize his greatest area of strength, he is able to manipulate the ball into gaps by subtly twisting his shoulders and hands as he plays his shot. Singles become twos, the fielders tire, and, when the ball is really struck, boundaries come like candy from kids. If the bowler becomes fed up with being punished on the off and straightens his line, runs are seamlessly collected through and over the leg side.

At times like these the greatest cricketer in the world can only stand and watch, impotent.

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