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Prior thankful for Mushtaq's school

He has been called England's best player of spin by teammate Stuart Broad

— Photo: AP

Matt Prior.

NAGPUR: Matt Prior paid tribute on Sunday to the influence of former Pakistan leg-break bowler Mushtaq Ahmed after being labelled England's best player of spin by teammate Stuart Broad.

Prior's return to the middle-order from an opener's berth for England's World Cup campaign has largely been seen in the context of Kevin Pietersen's promotion to partnering captain Andrew Strauss at the top of the order.

Positive move

But England is convinced moving Prior down the order is a positive move for the wicketkeeper, as it is in the middle overs of a one-day innings where slow bowling will come into play.

Prior played alongside Mushtaq at Sussex where the leg-spinner twice took more than a hundred first-class wickets to guide the south coast side to the 2003 and 2006 County Championship titles.

Although Mushtaq retired three years ago, he was subsequently employed as England's spin bowling coach, renewing a relationship that the attacking Prior said was pivotal to his development against slow bowling.

“One of the biggest factors was having Mushy playing at Sussex and seeing how devastating it could be if you have a good spinner,” Prior said at England's hotel ahead of the World Cup match against the Netherlands on Tuesday.

“I spent a lot of time talking to him and working with him was a massive help,” Prior added.

“I've also spent quite a bit of time playing cricket out here (the sub-continent), whether on ‘A' tours or my first full tour, which was India and Pakistan in 2005.

“Over the years I've spent quite a lot of time with spin bowling and the reverse-swing part of the game. I've made a decision to work very hard on that part of the game and tried to excel at it, knowing that we play quite a lot of cricket now on wickets that do spin and reverse-swing.”

Prior said he relished the mental challenge of playing slow bowling, likely to be the key in the 2011 World Cup.

“That's the thing I enjoy against spin — it's the ultimate game of cat and mouse, where a spin bowler wants fielders in the position where he wants to bowl the ball and you've got to try to move them to a place where you feel more comfortable. I enjoy that part of the game.”

But he said that these days Mushtaq's influence was more theoretical than practical, saying of his former Sussex colleague's net bowling: “Mushy still thinks he's got it.

“But he's a bit stiff at the moment — he's not quite got the energy in his arm he did in 2003.” — AFP

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