Cricket: Atherton emerges into the light

Stephen Brenkley hears that a run of ducks was never a swansong

IT HAD been 18 months and 12 matches since he had last scored a Test hundred. The days of darkness and failure had begun to outnumber the ones of lightness and triumph. There must have been times when, despite his enviably stubborn temperament, he wondered where the next break was coming from.

By his own admission, the last fortnight had been an especially long one. Michael Atherton reflected on this in Port Elizabeth last night with the benefit of his 13th Test hundred behind him.

"There had been one match between Test matches but it was fairly insignificant," he said. "It's different from Tests and it's all a mental battle. I was waiting to get involved again."

Presumably, it must have crossed his mind that one ball early on could do him in again. He had recorded four ducks in a row in overseas Test matches. That must have crossed his mind too. That alone was a measure of Atherton's innings of 108 yesterday, spanning 254 balls and six hours, 20 minutes.

"They always make you work hard for your runs. We got a good start yesterday but they reined in their bowlers today and made you come to terms with the pitch." It was one for patience and Atherton has that in spades. He was grimly composed at the crease but it was there that he was stuck when Nantie Hayward delivered him the ball which got him out.

"If I was at fault it was in being a bit stuck. He's a skiddy bowler and it just caught the inside edge. Things like this can happen but I was annoyed because I was trying to stick in and get on."

It had been the usual fray out there and some ruderies were probably aimed at him yesterday morning when the South Africans were understandably becoming irritated. "I don't want to expand on that. I don't tell tales out of school," he said, and then laughed.

Atherton firmly rebuffed suggestions that the weak back which had caused him so many problems last winter in Australia and early in the summer in England might have persuaded him to quit. He had, he pointed out, played a long sequence of Test matches. "I'm surely allowed one brief period of injury," the opener said.

He also added that he thought it was not beyond England's capabilities to win the match. "Obviously we're second favourites but I've seen Test matches won from worse positions. We've got a spinner, the pitch is wearing."

Not that Hansie Cronje was wearing this. He was aware that his South African team were in the better position and, with England having to bat fourth, he would not mind it if the pitch wore some more.

Cronje heaped measured praise on Hayward, a young, extremely rapid bowler, but also insisted in a timely mind-game that England had had the better of the conditions.

Of Atherton he said: "He's a fighter. He played and missed a few times but sometimes you need a bit of luck and afterwards he played pretty well. He's got a good record against us and that helps."

Hansie was fairly grudging about this, but for good reason. He knows Atherton has scored three hundreds against South Africa and would not want him to get another one this series.

So, where did Atherton figure in the ranks of opposing batsmen? "I don't like rating individual players and I'm certainly not saying anything while the series is going on," he countered. Yesterday, Atherton was right up there.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas