Gus Atkinson was caught unawares by his World Cup selection but England’s latest pace weapon believes The Hundred has primed him for a step-up to the international fold.
Atkinson was optimistic of being selected for four T20s against New Zealand but he can set his sights higher after his inclusion in the ODI squad, plus England’s 15-man preliminary party for the World Cup.
Jofra Archer’s troublesome elbow has all but ended his hopes of being involved in England’s 50-over title defence but Atkinson was still surprised to be given the nod and had to adopt his best poker face when taking a phone call from white-ball head coach Matthew Mott in the Oval Invincibles dressing room.
It has been at the Kia Oval-based club where Atkinson has caught the eye in recent weeks, regularly exceeding 90mph and topping out at 95mph while he also has a deceptive slower ball in his armoury, and he feels going up against some established names has set him up perfectly for England duty.
He told the PA news agency: “I wasn’t really expecting to be picked for the World Cup. I’d heard rumours for the New Zealand T20s but to be picked for the ODIs and the World Cup was pretty cool.
“I’m just overjoyed. It was tough to try and keep it a secret from people at first as I was at the Oval getting ready with the Invincibles when I found out so trying not to smile was very hard.
“But I spoke to my family who are obviously very happy and very proud. This summer been very good and it’s all happened pretty quickly. It’s been my first experience of The Hundred and it’s been very, very good.
“There’s top world-class batters in every team and bowling against them has helped. I’ve been performing well against international players in The Hundred, so there’s no reason why I can’t do that on the international stage.”
Atkinson was able to make an impression last week on England captain Jos Buttler, who landed a couple of blows on the quick for the Manchester Originals but was beaten all ends up by a 94mph free hit.
While he is unsure he can up his speeds – “I’m not sure about that,” he said with a laugh – Atkinson has enjoyed the exposure he has received with all matches in The Hundred televised.
He said: “Every game so far, my beans have been going. It’s the first time I’d played against Jos, you have it in your head what a world-class player he is.
“I wasn’t really thinking about the bigger picture when I was bowling at him but I was just trying to do my job – hit the pitch hard and try to bowl quick.”
Atkinson has always had that trait of natural pace but his development was stymied by three stress fractures in his back, which had the knock-on consequence of leaving him with internal doubts.
Trusting his body again was as complicated as recovering from those injuries but Atkinson is now at full-throttle and grateful his attributes have seen him fast-tracked into the England set-up.
He said: “This year, playing all the T20 games for Surrey in the (Vitality) Blast, it was nice to be backed and to know I was going to play. That’s helped a lot.
“My skills and ability have always been there, I’ve always had pace in me, but I’ve felt like I’m a few years behind with my career in terms of those injuries.
“To be selected by England without having to go through three or four years of graft is nice.”
Atkinson has just two List A matches under his belt and has never before been to India, where England will attempt to retain their world title in October and November.
But the 25-year-old, who intends to seek out advice from Surrey team-mate and good friend Reece Topley, is confident he has a formula to thrive in any conditions, irrespective of the format.
He said: “When I switch from four-day cricket to T20 cricket, I don’t change too much. I just try to focus on bowling my best ball and keep it as simple as possible, so I’ll do that when it comes to 50-over cricket.”