‘All the focus was on Jimmy…’: Gus Atkinson after stealing limelight from James Anderson with record 7-wicket haul

    The stage was set for James Anderson to have one final hurrah in his last Test but the limelight was taken away by a debutant – Gus Atkinson. Not that Anderson would mind that much as Atkinson put England in the driver’s seat on Day 1 of the first Test against West Indies at Lord’s. The Surrey pacer returned with stunning figures of 7/45 to bulldoze through the West Indies batting line-up, while Anderson had to be content with a solitary wicket.

    England’s Gus Atkinson celebrates with Ben Stokes(Action Images via Reuters)

    Atkinson missed Dominic Cork’s record (7/43) for the best figures by an England cricketer on Test debut by a whisker but it was a dream debut nonetheless. He removed West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite with just his second ball and later took three wickets in one extraordinary over after lunch.

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    Among those cheering him on was his father Ed, who may have inadvertently added to the pressure his son already felt ahead of a landmark match in his cricket career.

    “I was a bit nervous this morning, I woke up and all I could think about was the day ahead. I was emotional,” Atkinson told reporters after stumps.

    “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!’.”

    ‘I’m a big cricket fan’: Atkinson

    Atkinson added: “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 was the fifth England debutant to take five wickets in a Test innings during 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,” said Atkinson. “I was just looking up at the honours board looking at my figures thinking ‘wow’. It was a very special day.”

    Anderson came into this match having already taken the most wickets by any fast bowler in Test history, a tally that now stands at 701, with only spinners Shane Warne (708) and Muttiah Muralitharan (800) ahead of him in the all-time standings.

    “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,” said Atkinson.

    “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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