July 12, 2001

Atherton appointed England captain for Lord's Test


England today named Michael Atherton as their stand-in captain for the Second Ashes Test starting next Thursday at Lord's.

He replaces Nasser Hussain after the skipper broke his finger during the defeat against Australia in the First Test at Edgbaston.

It had appeared that it was a two-horse race for the captaincy between Atherton and opener Marcus Trescothick.

England initially drew up a shortlist comprising Atherton, Trescothick and Alec Stewart. But Stewart and Mark Butcher ruled themselves out of the race, although opening bowler Darren Gough said he would be interested in leading the side for a one-off match.

It will be the first time that Atherton has captained England since he resigned from the position in Antigua more than three years ago.

Chairman of slectors David Graveney said: "We believe that Michael's previous experience of Test captaincy makes him the right person to stand in for Nasser.

"He fully understands the predicament the team finds itself in and was very happy to take on the responsibility.

"We looked at all our options within the team, in particular Marcus Trescothick who continues to play a central role in decision-making, but at this stage of his career, the selectors felt the captaincy was an unnecessary burden for Marcus to undertake."

Atherton said: "I had no intention of doing it again but these are exceptional circumstances and when David Graveney asked me if I would do it I said yes.

"Clearly there were not too many candidates because of the injury list and I obviously thought there was a chance of being asked to do the job.

"I didn't push myself forward. I just kept quiet and went away after the last Test for a fishing trip and thought things through for myself but I spoke to Duncan (Fletcher) and didn't want to turn my back on him in this instance."

Atherton can at least take comfort from the fact that his last Ashes Test as captain resulted in a narrow 19-run victory for England at The Oval.

He said: "You never stop learning from the game and being a distance away from the captaincy will help. I'll go out there and give it my best and the team will give it a good go.

"Each individual has to step up to the mark - it's a great challenge because we've had a bad four or five weeks with injuries and the Test matches against Pakistan and Australia and it's up to the team to turn it around.

"All good teams have a bad patch and we've proved in the last 18 months that we're a good team."

He added: "I'll speak to Nasser in the next day or two to sound out how he wants to play it. He's still captain of England and I'm happy to have him at Lord's."

Australian skipper Steve Waugh said: "I've never actually captained a Test against Michael, but I'm looking forward to locking horns with an old adversary.

"Michael is a respected opponent and I'm sure his experience will be valuable for England at this time."

Atherton will take over his duties next week when the squad assembles in London on Tuesday.