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Wicket-by-wicket breakdown as debutant Gus Atkinson explodes onto Test scene

Gus Atkinson of England/Wicket-by-wicket breakdown as debutant Gus Atkinson explodes onto Test scene


Gus Atkinson of England/Wicket-by-wicket breakdown as debutant Gus Atkinson explodes onto Test scene

Gus Atkinson salutes the Lord’s crowd after his fifth wicket – Getty Images/Andy Kearns

Twenty-one years ago, James Anderson began his Test career by taking five wickets at Lord’s, and writing himself on the honours’ board on debut. In Anderson’s farewell Test, Gus Atkinson did the same – only even more dramatically.

Where Anderson took 5-73 against Zimbabwe in 16 overs, Atkinson took five wickets inside his first nine overs, culminating in an extraordinary sequence of three wickets in four balls, and finished with innings figures of 7-45. For all of the excitement about Atkinson’s pace, his brilliant debut showcased his array of skills.

Wicket one: Kraigg Brathwaite b Atkinson 6

Atkinson is not a particularly demonstrative type. When he replaced Anderson from the Pavilion End, with West Indies 34-0 after ten overs, Atkinson showed no sign of the nervous tension sometimes associated with debutants, beginning with an 89mph delivery on off stump. His second ball was not quite as good, a little wide. But as Kraigg Brathwaite moved to cut the ball, he was suckered by Lord’s low bounce, and inside-edged the ball onto his stumps. A contented smile revealed that Atkinson had reduced the gap with Anderson’s Test wicket tally to a mere 699.

Wicket two: Kirk McKenzie c Crawley b Atkinson 1

Resisting the modern trend to go around the wicket to left-handers, Atkinson continued from over the wicket against Kirk McKenzie. Under clouds at Lord’s, he recognised that lateral movement was a much greater threat than bounce. Angling the ball across McKenzie, Atkinson used his wobble seam grip – holding the ball wide of the seam, enabling it to move in either direction of the pitch. The line compelled McKenzie to play at the ball; the seam movement claimed the edge to Zak Crawley at second slip. Atkinson had yet to concede a run in Test cricket, but already had two wickets.

Wicket three: Alick Athanaze c Root b Atkinson 23

Into his second spell – again from the Pavilion End – Atkinson continued with his over the wicket line of attack against left-handers. Alick Athanaze, who had looked West Indies’ most accomplished batsman, was forced into playing at another awkward delivery across him. There was pace and a little bounce, yes – but, more than anything, the wicket was further reward for Atkinson pitching the ball up and trusting in his skill to generate seam movement.

Wicket four: Jason Holder c Brook b Atkinson 0

Athanaze’s dismissal brought in Jason Holder, who seemed a little over-promoted at number six in his first Test for 11 months. Immediately he was squared up by Atkinson, playing around the ball as he edged to Harry Brook, who added to England’s list of smart catches in the slips. Atkinson used a more upright seam for this delivery, allowing him to get more bounce off the pitch. Barely three hours into his Test debut, Atkinson was on a hat-trick.

Wicket five: Joshua Da Silva c Smith b Atkinson 0

The hat-trick did not come; Joshua Da Silva defended his first ball to mid off. But Atkinson only had to wait one more ball for his next wicket. Using the wobble seam delivery again, this time Atkinson beat the inside edge. His Surrey teammate and fellow debutant Jamie Smith took his maiden Test catch to bring Atkinson a five-wicket haul on debut.

Wicket six: Alzarri Joseph c Woakes b Atkinson 17

After West Indies collapsed to 88-7, Alzarri Joseph reasoned that there was no sense in poking and prodding like the top order and hit Atkinson for a flurry of four boundaries in five balls. Recognising Joseph’s intent, now Atkinson made use of his white-ball repertoire. He begun his 11th over with a slower ball; Joseph continued to attack in the same vein, and miscued to mid on.

Wicket seven: Shamar Joseph c Pope b Atkinson 0

Under Ben Stokes’s captaincy, England have embraced bowling short to the tail. Stokes has persisted with the tactic with bowlers operating at a little over 80mph – Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson. Now, with Atkinson, England can deploy the same tactic, but at altogether greater speeds; Atkinson showed as much when he clanged Joseph on the head first ball. From his second ball, Shamar Joseph, who bowled West Indies to their stunning victory at the Gabba in January, received a nasty bouncer too. Joseph slipped as he tried to play the shot, and then got a top edge to backward point.

It was a bizarre dismissal, but distilled the greatest reason for Atkinson’s selection: the power of pace. And so what had begun as Anderson’s day swiftly became Atkinson’s instead. A few minutes before three o’clock, Atkinson paused on the boundary rope, held up the ball and then led England off through the long room, basking in the acclaim of his debut figures of 7-45.





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