Saturday, July 13, 2024

It was a very special day – Gus Atkinson revels in dream England debut at Lord’s

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Gus Atkinson enjoyed a dream debut at Lord’s after being told by his father to prepare for “the biggest day of your life”.

Atkinson served up stunning figures of seven for 45 on day one of the first Test against the West Indies, nudging the retiring James Anderson into the shadows on an occasion that was set up as a celebration of his record-breaking career.

Atkinson’s haul left the tourists all out for just 121, before half-centuries from Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope left England 189 for three at stumps with a lead of 68.

The Surrey seamer barely put a foot wrong, removing touring captain Kraigg Brathwaite with just his second ball, taking his second before a single run had come off his bowling and striking three times in a remarkable over after lunch.

He was watched every step of the way by father Ed, who was on hand to see him accept his cap in the team huddle and who started the day by accidentally cranking up the pressure on his already anxious son.

“I was a bit nervous this morning, I woke up and all I could think about was the day ahead. I was emotional,” he said.

“I tried to keep as level as possible but my Dad was saying ‘this is the biggest day of your life’. I just said ‘relax! I’m trying not to think like that!’.

“He’s a big cricket fan, so to make him proud and make my family proud is very special. Walking through the Long Room at the end and seeing him there was pretty cool. If you could ask me what I want in a day, that would be pretty close to the top.”

Atkinson’s analysis was a whisker away from being the best ever by an England debutant, finishing just two runs more expensive than Dominic Cork’s record from 1995.

He was also the fifth first-timer to take a five-for in Ben Stokes’ two-year reign as captain.

“I’m very proud but I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet to be honest. I was just looking up at the honours board looking at my figures thinking ‘wow’. It was a very special day,” he said.

“All the focus was on Jimmy so it was quite nice to go under the radar a little bit and focus on performing as well as I could. To be out there alongside Jimmy in his final test was incredible, being there with Jimmy leading us on the pitch was a pretty surreal moment.

“Ben just said to me ‘go out and do your thing’ and that was it. If you speak to someone too much a bit of pressure can start to kick in.”

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