Player: England (1989-2001)
The man who captained England in more Tests than any other, Mike Atherton led all the teams he represented, often saving his best performances when his side were in dire straits.
Atherton captained the England under-19 side when he was just 16 and in 1987 made his debut for both Cambridge University and Lancashire, scoring more than 1,000 runs in his first season.
Atherton also captained the Combined British Universities side that got through to the quarter finals of the Benson and Hedges Cup in 1989 and led Young England to Australia – his leadership credentials were such that at university he was dubbed ‘Future England Captain’.
He often saved his best performances when his side were in dire straits
The Lancashire opener played the first of his 115 Tests against Australia in 1989, and partnering Graham Gooch in the 1990 season scored centuries against New Zealand and India. After Graham Gooch resigned during the 1993 series against a rampant Australian team, Atherton took over the captaincy at just 25 years old and went on to lead the side a record 54 times, facing up to some of the most potent attacks of all time: Walsh and Ambrose, Donald and Pollock, Wasim and Waqar.
His two finest innings came against South Africa. At Johannesburg in 1995 his rearguard 185 over nearly 11 hours in the fourth innings against Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock saved the Test. In the return series in England two and a half years later, Atherton again saw off a barrage of Donald’s most bruising short balls to score 98 not out to win the fourth Test and turn the series England’s way. Atherton retired at the end of the 2001 Ashes series, his final Test wicket fittingly taken by arch-nemesis Glenn McGrath.
Since retiring for playing, Atherton has become a respected voice in the media. He commentated for Channel 4 and now works on Sky Sports’ live cricket coverage. After working as a journalist for the Sunday Telegraph, he took over as The Times’ chief cricket correspondent from Christopher Martin-Jenkins.
In 2009 he was named as the Sports Journalists’ Association’s Specialist Correspondent of the Year and in 2010 won the Sports Journalist of the Year award at the British Press Awards.
He has written two books - an autobiography 'Opening Up' and, away from pure cricket, 'Gambling: A Story of Triumph and Disaster'.