Atherton attributes success to steady hands in the field

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The Independent Online
Had David Gower been in Micheal Atherton's shoes, he would probably have chosen the moment to pull out a "captain grumpy" T-shirt and set it on fire amid mock ceremony. Or else left it on the table for Mohammad Azharadduin.

There were no such gestures from England's current captain, who nowadays maintains his guard at all times when notebooks are open and tape recorders running. He did at least allow himself to smile after guiding England home in comfort at Edgbaston, exorcising the painful memory of what happened here last year. If he was not doing cartwheels of joy, it was in the certain knowledge that until England have won two of the three Tests against India they have nothing lasting to celebrate. In any case he was keen to stress that England's win, achieved 65 minutes into the fourth day, was not, from his point of view, the stroll it might have appeared.

"It looked a comfortable victory but there were times when we were made to work hard," he said. "There were times, such as when we were eight down and only one run in front, that it was in the balance. We showed a lot of character at these times to impose ourselves on the game."

Atherton emphasised England's success in the field, where their catching was almost without fault, dropping strong hints that those players who cannot cut it in the multi-disciplined modern game are unlikely to be considered for future teams.

"At the selection meeting, the desire for a strong fielding side was very clear and the emphasis on that has paid off. Modern cricketers have got to excel in two areas of the game, either as a batsman and a bowler or, if you are just a batsman, as a good fielder. As a bowler you should be able to bat a bit and you've got to be able to field."

Naturally, he paid special compliments to man of the match Nasser Hussain, pointing to "difficult circumstances for him, both in the match and personally, after an absence of three years." The Essex player's century had, the captain added, "made the No 3 position his for a while".

He was delighted also with the newcomers. "Alan Mullally bowled with pace and patience," he said, "and Ronnie Irani's first-innings batting was important because we had become a bit static and his breezy innings took the initiative away from India a bit."

Irani has something to prove as a bowler at this level but then again, as the very model of the modern cricketer, his all round contribution illustrated Atherton's point.

Ray Illingworth, the beleaguered chairman of selectors, did not witness in person England's first win in eight tests. But after watching the conclusion at home he described the result as "a very satisfactory start".

However, he warned against taking victory in the series for granted. "I don't think we are likely to see India bat as well as the West Indies. While Azharuddin and [Sachin] Tendulkar are fine players, if they don't come off the other batsmen are under a lot of pressure. But let's not go overboard at this stage."

Azharuddin, the India captain, called for wider use of television replays as an aid to umpires after the verdicts on two disputed catches introduced a less than cordial note to relations between the teams at Edgbaston. The Indian players remain unconvinced that Hussain did not "glove" a catch to wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia after he had made 14 of his 128 runs, while the dismissal of Vikram Rathore on Saturday brought claims that the catch attributed to Graeme Hick in the slips did not carry.

Sky Television's slow motion replay device seemed to support the second of those claims, although examination of the Hussain incident was inconclusive. "I would think the third umpire should now be used for catches too," Azharuddin said. "It is used for run outs and stumpings. I'm not sure about lbw's but if you have television available you should use it."

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