Cricket: Atherton blows another fuse

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The Independent Online
Michael Atherton has been advised by a leading psychologist to give up newspapers for the time being - for the good of his mental health.

The England captain had an angry exchange with a broadsheet newspaper journalist after the historic first Test against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, which ended in a draw with the scores tied. Atherton was apparently upset about what has been written and said about his form and England's prospects. He lost his temper after a question relating to the bowling tactics of the the newest and lowest-ranked Test nation, particularly the use of wides on the dramatic last day.

Atherton has fallen out with the media before, apologising last year to a Pakistan journalist he had labelled a buffoon.

However, doubts about Atherton being up to the task of leading England were dismissed by the psychologist Professor Cary Cooper. "I think Atherton is good for England. People should realise he is still a young man and the pressure on him is enormous," said Professor Cooper, who is based at Manchester's University of Science and Technology, said.

"When people are playing for their country, the majority are very wound up. I don't think there is anything in his nature that should worry us. It is safer to hit out at journalists than your team-mates, and he is normally such a cool customer.

"To me he is a typical stoical Lancashire lad, who usually stays in control of his emotions. My advice to him would be not to read the newspapers until the Test series is over. All he should worry about is getting on with the matches in hand and concentrating on what is good for himself and England."

England's squad, apart from the assistant coach, John Emburey, and the off-spinner Robert Croft, enjoyed a day trip to the Victoria Falls yesterday. They plan to practise both today and on Christmas Day morning in preparation for the second Test in Harare on Boxing Day.

There has been some confusion about whether it was Nick Knight, rather than Darren Gough, who was run out off the final ball of Sunday's dramatic run chase. The umpires, Ian Robinson and Steve Dunne, thought Knight was out, but the International Cricket Council referee, Hanumant Singh, insisted it was Gough. The England scorer, Malcolm Ashton, has Gough run out in his book, but is waiting for further evidence before making a final decision.