Gus Atkinson steals the limelight in James Anderson’s farewell Test

Gus Atkinson claimed seven wickets on his Test debut (Getty Images)
Gus Atkinson claimed seven wickets on his Test debut (Getty Images)

Gus Atkinson chose the perfect moment to make his Test bow and strike. James Anderson claimed his 701st Test scalp as the West Indies were bowled out for 121, and although it is too early to say the side has found the seamer’s replacement, the Surrey fast bowler has laid down a marker.

Only one Englishman has finished with better figures on debut. It was Dominic Cork, also against the West Indies at Lord’s back in 1995, and Atkinson’s seven for 45 puts him 11th on the list for best figures on Test debut.

Having never played a first-class match at Lord’s beforehand, Atkinson looked almost instantly at home, claiming the wicket of Kraigg Brathwaite, who played onto his own stumps with only his second ball in the format. The breakthrough came after 10 wicketless overs from the experienced Anderson and Chris Woakes at the start of the day after England won the toss and elected to bowl.

It is too early to predict Atkinson’s future, but Anderson claimed five wickets on Test debut at Lord’s, against Zimbabwe 21 years previously. Although there are few similarities between the two in terms of style, Anderson is a swing bowler, while Atkinson is more front-on and often favours the cross-seam delivery, bowling wicket to wicket, few make such an impression on their debut.

Anderson took the final wicket of the innings as the West Indies were bowled out for a disappointing 121 inside the first two sessions of play.

The entire day was set to pay tribute to Anderson after 22 years of international cricket for England. His family rang the bell five minutes before play, and Lord’s had a number of montages prepared for the big screen to showcase his achievements over more than two decades.

Anderson did get in on the act, and the crowd responded, but it was a reminder that the occasion is not about one person, and instead, as England look to the future, they could have a new player to celebrate. Atkinson was awarded his cap in front of his family in a huddle by Surrey teammate Ollie Pope.

“I’m very proud, I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet to be honest. I was looking up at the board and seeing my figures and just thinking ‘wow’,” Atkinson said.

“I was still pretty nervous going into it but the focus was on Jimmy (Anderson) so it was pretty nice to go under the radar a bit.

“I tried to keep as level as possible my dad was saying ‘this is the biggest day of your life’ and I was trying to stay relaxed.”

James Anderson claimed his 701st wicket at Lord’s against the West Indies (Action Images via Reuters)
James Anderson claimed his 701st wicket at Lord’s against the West Indies (Action Images via Reuters)

Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum have not been unafraid to throw the ball to inexperienced players, and have often reaped the reward. Will Jacks took a five-for on debut during the first overseas tour of the Bazball era against Pakistan in Rawalpindi, and Rehan Ahmed did the same on his maiden appearance in the third Test of that series in Karachi.

Josh Tonge took five wickets in a standalone Test match before the Ashes in the summer of 2023, and Tom Hartley took seven on his debut at Hyderabad. Atkinson is the latest to repay the England leadership for his faith in the next generation.

When it came their turn to bat, England started in an uncharacteristically subdued fashion, but a 94-run partnership between Ollie Pope and Zak Crawley was put on in more typical Bazball fashion.

Pope made a useful 57 from 74 before he was trapped lbw by Jason Holder, who had had two lbw decisions overturned by DRS on review previously.

Crawley made 76 before being bowled by Jayden Seales, and at the close of play, England were 68 runs ahead and three wickets down on 189 for three.