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Ashes Test debut to remember for Atherton

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Former England opening batsman Michael Atherton has recalled the “scarcely believable” moment when he was handed his first Test cap in an Ashes clash in 1989.

The opening batsman was drafted into the side for the penultimate Test of the six-match series, which Australia were leading 3-0, at Trent Bridge in August of that year.

Atherton was handed his cap by skipper David Gower, a player he had grown up watching and trying to emulate, and now a colleague on the Sky Sports commentary team.

Recalling the moment, the Lancastrian told ecb.co.uk: “Gower was kind of a boyhood hero really. I remember when he made his debut in 1978, I remember my father calling me in from the back garden, I was playing cricket with my brother, and he said ‘come in and watch this young lad play’, Gower was 21.

“I remember him saying ‘watch how still he keeps his head’ and then he hooked his first ball for four. Ten years later, or 11 years later, he was the England captain giving me my first England cap. It was scarcely believable.

“And Beefy, like all teenagers – I was 13 in 1981 – I spent most summer watching him and his heroics against Australia. Suddenly to walk into the dressing room with Botham, Gower, was strange.”

David Gower, left, handed Michael Atherton, right, his first Test cap and the pair now form part of the Sky Sports commentary team

That was the start of a debut that had its ups and downs for Atherton.

He spent most part of it in the field as Australia, having won the toss and racked up 301 for no wicket courtesy of centuries from Geoff Marsh and Mark Taylor on the opening day, declared on 602 for six. 

Atherton then got his chance with the bat on day three when Martyn Moxon departed cheaply, but was trapped lbw for a second-ball duck and, with Sunday a rest day, had a long wait before he could make amends in England’s follow-on.

Atherton showed he was up for the challenge, though, top-scoring with 47 of his side’s second knock of 167 in an innings-and-180-run defeat.

He said: “The first day was extraordinary really, the first day as an England cricketer, because we were in the field and Australia were 301 for none at the end of it.

“We couldn’t take a wicket the whole day, so it was a horrendous start, then I got a nought. I think we were following on, we had rest days in those days so I went back to Old Trafford, where Lancashire were playing a Sunday League game, and I was on a pair over this long weekend.

“I ended up getting 40-odd in the second innings, so that was not a too bad a start, I suppose.”  

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