Usually when you take a high-profile job in sport it's because somebody else has failed. The team therefore is not exactly buoyant and, certainly at first, the job is not easy.
There are few more vivid examples of this state of affairs than the Edgbaston Ashes Test of 1993.
It was the fifth Test of the series and Michael Atherton’s first as England captain. England, deep in a slump stretching back years, were already 3-0 down in the series and after the latest thrashing, by an innings and 148 runs at Headingley, Graham Gooch had resigned as skipper.
Before the Edgbaston Test was over, chairman of selectors Ted Dexter would also quit. The news, announced as Australia cantered to an eight-wicket win on the final day, drew cheers from the Birmingham crowd. It was about all they had to cheer during the match.
Just for a few moments, the crowd wondered if England could deliver the sort of glorious fightback they had mustered so often before at Edgbaston – but no. Waugh and David Boon saw their side to a comfortable win.Brian Halford
Not just for England’s cricket team was it a stressful time. Prime Minister John Major was desperately trying to heal rifts over Europe in the Conservative party. Radio One DJ Dave Lee-Travis, disenchanted by changes at the BBC, stunned listeners by announcing his resignation live on air. A border-collie named Mott spent two weeks trapped in a disused mineshaft near Prestatyn before being discovered by some passing potholers.
For Mott, rescue was at hand. For Atherton, there was no such respite for Atherton.
Having arrived in Birmingham with new spin-bowling sensation Shane Warne in their ranks, Australia were delighted to find a pitch likely to take spin. “It looks more like a pitch you would find on the subcontinent,” observed surprised Aussie captain Allan Border, failing to suppress a smile.
The match duly turn into a twirl challenge between Australia’s Warne and Tim May and England’s John Emburey (hurriedly recalled 17 days short of his 41st birthday) and Peter Such. Warne and May won handsomely.
Having proudly become England’s 71st Test captain, Atherton spent the opening day leading the defiance with a plucky 72 out of his team’s inadequate total of 276. Mark Waugh’s fluent century then lifted Australia to a first-innings lead of 132 – not massive but more than enough on a wearing pitch which was taking more turn by the day. In England’s second innings, Warne and May duly took five wickets apiece to leave their side with a victory target of just 119.
When the Aussies dipped to 12 for two, just for a few moments, the crowd wondered if England could deliver the sort of glorious fightback they had mustered so often before at Edgbaston – but no. Waugh and David Boon saw their side to a comfortable win.
By the time Australia completed victory just after lunch on the final day, Dexter had already done a D.L.T. Curiously, when the development was announced over the public address system, that was the first Atherton knew about it.