Cricket: Illingworth attacks Atherton

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The Independent Online
Mike Atherton took time out yesterday as England recovered from their first Test torment in Auckland. The England captain spent yesterday fishing on Lake Taupo - a half-way stop on the journey from Auckland to here, where England are playing a four-day game against New Zealand A - and was no doubt trying to come to terms with the epic but frustrating last- wicket New Zealand stand that denied England victory.

Atherton knows that questions are being asked about his continued ability to inspire his players, although his own return to form at Auckland with 83 in England's innings of 521 will do wonders for his spirits.

Atherton's opening partner, Nick Knight, spoke yesterday about the draining effect of the drawn first Test. Knight said: "It was the most frustrating day I've ever known - and it was particularly draining for me because, as an opener, I kept on thinking about the target that we would have had to chase as the afternoon wore on. It looked like it was going to become another Bulawayo situation - a race against the clock - but in the end we just couldn't get that last wicket."

Meanwhile, the pressure continues to build on Atherton, with the former England captain, Ray Illingworth, leading the criticism. Illingworth, who worked with Atherton as chairman of selectors, said: "His lacklustre, unimaginative captaincy, along with some awful bowling, lay at the heart of another alarming tour debacle... If this carries on there will be no alternative to replacing him as England captain. It was an incredible outcome and Atherton's own errors of judgement and leadership were vividly evident," Illingworth told the Express.

New Zealand A v England

(First day of four; New Zealand A won toss)


NEW ZEALAND A - First Innings

C M Spearman c Hussain b Silverwood 0

*D J Murray not out 29

B Chandler lbw b Silverwood 3

M J Horne not out 36

Extras 0

Total (for 2, 19 overs) 68

Fall: 1-0, 2-22.

To bat: C Z Harris, L G Howell, J Mills, P J Wiseman, G I Allott, R J Kennedy, H T Davis.

ENGLAND: N V Knight, *M A Atherton, N Hussain, J P Crawley C White, R C Irani, R C Russell, R D B Croft, A R Caddick C E W Silverwood, P C R Tufnell.