Cricket: Prior the hero as battling ton saves series for England
Matt Prior has proved himself as one of England's finest counter-attacking batsmen, but it was his gritty side that saved his team from their greatest ignominy under Andy Flower, as his unbeaten century helped to draw a thrilling final Test against New Zealand.
Prior made 110 in 182 balls, soaking up the pressure moments in the final nerve-wracking session after Ian Bell had been dismissed on the stroke of tea for 75.
His superb efforts meant that England leave with the series drawn 0-0, a result they barely deserved after being outplayed in two of the three Tests.
It also means they retain second place above India in the Test rankings.
It was Prior's seventh Test hundred, though he had plenty of good fortune after twice coming close to being caught and then surviving a ricochet where the ball struck the stumps, but failed to dislodge the bails.
Stoic as he was, England's vice-captain could not have done it without Stuart Broad whose batting here, despite being in steep decline since his maiden Test hundred two and half years ago, was resolute – he took 103 minutes and 62 balls to get off the mark.
He and Prior looked as if they had absorbed New Zealand's best efforts when Brendon McCullum, with four overs remaining, turned to part-timer Kane Williamson.
Broad edged the off-spinner's third ball to Ross Taylor at third slip and James Anderson did the same thing two balls later to leave England nine down.
But No 11 Monty Panesar has done this kind of thing before, against Australia in 2009 at Cardiff, where he survived 35 balls to save the match with Anderson.
This time it was five balls he negotiated, though not without alarm after a quick single to give Prior the strike saw him stumble then dive to make his ground, which he did, just, and England survived. (© Daily Telegraph, London)