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Focus on Gus Atkinson: Paceman's T20 debut delights England selectors

England fast bowler Gus Atkinson enjoyed an excellent international debut on Friday and the 25-year-old looks set for an exciting couple of months.

Atkinson took 4-20 in a 95-run rout of New Zealand in the second T20 international and his performance must have pleased England's selectors, who had already named him in the squad for October's 50-over World Cup in India.

The paceman, who consistently breaks the 90mph barrier, is 10/3 to be England's Team - Top Bowler in Sunday's third T20 against New Zealand, and he is also in the squad for next week's ODI series against the Black Caps.

WhatEngland v New Zealand
WhereEdgbaston, Birmingham
When14:30, Sunday 3rd September
How to watchSky Sports Cricket
OddsEngland 4/9, New Zealand 7/4

Atkinson aiming to emulate Archer's World Cup heroics

Few things excite cricket fans more than the emergence of a genuinely fast bowler and, after some thrilling spells from England's Mark Wood during this summer's Ashes, Gus Atkinson lived up to the hype in his first international appearance.

The paceman needed only 17 deliveries to make headlines in Friday's T20 victory over New Zealand at Old Trafford, dismissing Kiwi opener Devon Conway with the fourth ball of his international career.

A short-pitched delivery proved too sharp for New Zealand's top runscorer Tim Seifert, who skied a catch to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, and Atkinson ruthlessly cleaned up the tail, pinning Tim Southee lbw before bowling number 11 Lockie Ferguson.

His debut display swiftly franked his selection for the World Cup in India and he will hope to match the impact made by another young fast bowler, Jofra Archer, in the 2019 tournament.

Archer bowled the Super Over in which England sealed a dramatic victory over New Zealand in the World Cup final at Lord's but a persistent elbow injury has ruled him out of the 2023 tournament.

England have kept faith with most of their 2019 trophy-winning squad but newcomer Atkinson will be competing for a place in the seam-bowling attack with fellow speedster Wood, as well as Chris Woakes and left-armers Sam Curran, Reece Topley and David Willey.   

Buttler battle enhances paceman's prospects

Atkinson was something of a surprise selection for the World Cup, in which defending champions England are 3/1 with tournament hosts India 11/5 and Australia 9/2.

However, he has been closely monitored by England's selectors this summer after bowling consistently fast for Surrey, claiming 13 wickets during the county's run to the T20 Blast semi-finals.

England's white-ball captain Buttler had the chance to assess Atkinson at close quarters when he faced him in Manchester Originals' August defeat to Oval Invincibles in The Hundred.

The fast bowler dismissed Buttler's opening partner Phil Salt for two and was clocked at 95mph at The Oval, where he wrapped up a comprehensive win for the Invincibles with the wicket of Jamie Overton.

Atkinson is not reliant on raw pace for wickets as he uses the short ball to great effect and also has a deceptive cutter in his armoury.

Buttler was clearly impressed by the spell he faced from Atkinson at The Oval and the paceman helped the Invincibles go on to win The Hundred, claiming 10 wickets in his six appearances.

Atkinson's victims in the 100-ball tournament included England T20 World Cup winners Salt and Alex Hales, as well as New Zealand's Glenn Phillips and Australia's Matthew Short, and he appeared unfazed by the step up to international level on Friday.

Test debut looks a realistic ambition for Surrey speedster

Atkinson's development as a youngster at Surrey was hampered by back injuries but his early-season displays in the County Championship suggest his T20 and ODI call-ups may soon be followed by an England Test debut.

He has played only 14 first-class matches, making his debut against Essex at Chelmsford in August 2020, but England Test captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum tend to prize talent, potential and character over experience.

Spinning all-rounder Rehan Ahmed became England's youngest Test cricketer when he made his debut at the age of 18 in Pakistan last December and Atkinson was reportedly close to a call-up for the June Test match against Ireland at Lord's.

Archer, before his luckless run with injuries, and Wood have demonstrated the value of express pace in Test cricket over the past few years and Atkinson will hope to follow in their footsteps.

Three months before his career-enhancing duel with Buttler in The Hundred, he had dismissed England's record Test runscorer Sir Alastair Cook on his way to career-best figures of 6-68 in a Championship match against Essex.

Cook and Buttler are not the only international batters troubled by Atkinson's pace this summer and England fans will be hoping his explosive T20 debut heralds the start of a long career at the top level. 

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