Prior vows to fight back

Matt Prior (Gallo)
Matt Prior (Gallo)

Melbourne - Another veteran paid the price for England's tumultuous Ashes tour when Matt Prior was axed from Thursday's fourth Test against Australia in Melbourne.

Prior, ever-present in England's three consecutive Ashes series wins over Australia, made way for wicketkeeping understudy Jonny Bairstow in yet another changing of the guard.

Prior, 31, the tour vice-captain to skipper Alastair Cook, is a veteran of 75 Tests and has not missed a Test since being recalled for England in 2009.

But he paid for a woeful series in Australia, averaging just 17.83 and twice missing key stumpings of David Warner in the third Perth Test when the Australia opener made a second-innings century.

"Disappointed to miss this Test match but my form just hasn't been good enough," Prior tweeted after the day's play.

"I'll be working hard as ever to make sure I'm back and performing at the level I expect of myself so I can contribute to the team effort once again.

"In the meantime I'll be doing my best to help in any small way I can so we can go home with some success and positives from this tour."

Teammate Ian Bell, who has played in six Ashes series, said Prior has been the "heartbeat" of the England side.

"He's a world-class player and he's been a great player for us and the real heartbeat of the side for a long time," Bell told reporters.

"It's disappointing for him to miss out but again it gives an opportunity to Jonny Bairstow, a young cricketer with a lot of talent, so it's good to have competition for places in all departments."

Prior's sacking comes just four days after spinner Graeme Swann's shock retirement mid-series.

The Melbourne Test is the first time since August 2008 that England have gone into a Test without Jonathan Trott, Prior or Swann. Trott left the tour after the first Brisbane Test suffering from a stress-related illness.

England lost the Ashes to Australia after just 14 playing days and are now battling to avert a 5-0 series clean sweep in the remaining Tests in Melbourne and Sydney.

It has been a chaotic time in the English camp since relinquishing the Ashes in Perth before Christmas.

Swann announced his retirement last Sunday from all forms of cricket following England's third straight heavy defeat to the Australians.

But the 34-year-old caused a stir with comments that were interpreted as being directed towards members of the England team.

"Some people playing the game at the minute have no idea how far up their own backsides they are," Swann said.

"It will bite them on the arse one day and when it does I hope they look back and are embarrassed about how they carry on."

Swann hastily denied he was referring to any of his current England teammates with his caustic comment.

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