‘More than I could have dreamed of’: Gus Atkinson enjoys perfect start

<span>England’s Gus Atkinson celebrates his fifth wicket of seven as Joshua Da Silva is caught behind.</span><span>Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images/Reuters</span>
England’s Gus Atkinson celebrates his fifth wicket of seven as Joshua Da Silva is caught behind.Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images/Reuters

Gus Atkinson declared his first day of Test cricket “more than I could have dreamed of” after he raced to a place on the fabled Lord’s honours board on his debut, taking seven wickets as England bowled West Indies out for 121. Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope both scored half-centuries in the afternoon as the home side eased to 189 for three at stumps to take control of the first Test of the summer.

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I was looking up at the board seeing my figures and just thinking, ‘Wow.’ A very special day,” Atkinson said. “I was a bit nervous this morning. I woke up and all I could think about was the day ahead. I was a bit emotional this morning and then having my family there for my cap presentation – if you could have asked me what I wanted from my day that was pretty close to the top. It was pretty cool. Just to take a five-for is amazing, more than I could have dreamed of.

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“I was trying to keep as level as possible. My dad was saying, ‘It’s the biggest day of your life.’ And I was saying, ‘Relax!’ I was a bit nervous to start with but once the first few overs were bowled I was pretty calm.”

Not only was it Atkinson’s Test debut, it was his first red-ball game at Lord’s. But after being introduced into the attack with West Indies 34 without loss he had bowled three overs and taken two wickets before he conceded his first run, and later produced a triple-wicket maiden as the tourists slumped from three down to seven without shifting their score from 88. Jimmy Anderson, the focus of pre-match attention on his final England appearance, took one wicket, as did Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes.

Atkinson ended with seven for 45, the second-best figures for a Test debutant in England’s men’s team (after Dominic Cork, who also took seven wickets but conceded two runs fewer, also against West Indies and also at Lord’s, in June 1995). “I’ve played a few white-ball games here. I’ve always felt like I would bowl quite well here with a red ball,” he said.

Jimmy Adams, West Indies’ assistant coach, blamed his side’s poor performance on a combination of England’s excellence with the ball and their own inexperience. “England exploited conditions really well – they were consistent, they got the ball to swing, they didn’t give us any freebies, and maybe there was a little bit of inexperience on our part as well,” Adams said.

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“I think all of England’s bowlers are world class. We hadn’t seen Gus bowl but he’s done pretty well in county cricket this season and he really put his hand up, and had a dream debut.”

Only three members of West Indies’ team had played a Test match in England before, and their unfamiliarity with local conditions perhaps contributed to their poor showing with the bat.

“For young men who’ve never toured England or batted in conditions like this, it was a real searching examination, but for a young lineup I’d rather they learned these lessons early in their careers,” Adams said. “I think it’ll make them better players going forward.”