Thatscricket - News - Atherton retires from international & 1st class cricket
Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
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London: Former England captain Mike Atherton on Tuesday announced his retirement from both international and first-class cricket at the end of this season.[an error occurred while processing this directive]The Lancashire batsman made the last of his 115 Test appearances at The Oval in the crushing fifth Test defeat against Australia on Monday. In a statement, Atherton, who captained England a record 54 times, said, "The Oval Test match was my last for England and I now intend to fulfill my commitments with Lancashire before retiring from cricket at the end of the current season."I have enjoyed 15 wonderful years in cricket and would like to thank all the players and staff I have been involved with at Lancashire and England since I first came into the professional game."Perhaps his finest hour came against in Johannesburg in 1995 and was described as then England manager Raymond Illingworth as "one of the great Test innings".Atherton defied the might of South Africa's attack for 645 minutes to save the Test. It was the fourth longest England innings in history and included 28 boundaries. He shared a 119-run sixth wicket partnership with Jack Russell and was so tired by his efforts that he slept through most of the following day. Chasing an improbable 247 for victory to level the series in the fourth Test against South Africa at Trent Bridge three years later, Atherton produced one of the most courageous and compelling innings of his career to steer England to an eight-wicket victory.Having slipped to 40 for one, Atherton appeared to edge fast bowler Allan Donald behind during a lightning fast spell. Umpire Steve Dunne rejected the appeal to prompt an exchange of bouncers and angry words, but Atherton never flinched and guided England to the victory, which provided the platform for a memorable series triumph.Atherton's 125 against Pakistan last December was every bit as obstinate and painstaking an innings as that in Johannesburg. This time Atherton provided the launch pad for England to become the first side to beat Pakistan in Karachi. His first-innings 125, which spanned 579 minutes, ensured England reached within 17 runs of their total and, after Pakistan collapsed on the final morning, set up the dramatic six-wicket victory in near-darkness.Atherton has not always endeared himself to the public as he showed with the 'dirt in the pocket' affair in July 1994.Television pictures of Atherton apparently tampering with the ball during the Lord's Test against South Africa would probably be regarded as the low point of his career.His explanation that he was "drying the ball" led to two separate fines from match referee Peter Burge, but he resisted calls for his resignation over the incident, scored 99 in the next Test at Headingley and led England to a series-levelling victory at the Oval.