Cricket: The day when Atherton bowled over the French

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The Independent Online
Michael Atherton, the England captain, led an assortment of Test cricketers to an unlikely victory over the French.

Henry Blofeld, in Reims, witnessed the upset.

While it may not have been a victory to rank with those enjoyed by the England rugby union team at the Parc des Princes in recent years, a win over the French in any circumstances is a treasured moment for any English captain. For Michael Atherton, whose successes overseas with his England cricketers have been rather limited, it must have been a very special occasion.

Atherton was leading a team of six England players past and present in a friendly match here. If it had been cricket, Atherton's side would no doubt have been favourites, but this was the quintessentially French sport of boules - and the host team included their national captain.

The match had been organised in aid of Atherton's benefit year. His team comprised Graham Gooch, Nasser Hussain, Mark Ilott, John Stephenson and Derek Pringle, the Independent's cricket correspondent.

The outcome of a tight contest rested on a final throw by England's captain. Atherton walked up to the throwing line, his face marked by that characteristic nervous smile, and confidently delivered his final boule. It landed within three inches of the jack to earn his team a famous victory.