His first wicket was that of Devon Conway, who flipped a length ball into the hands of Will Jacks at deep square leg, before returning to the attack with New Zealand 95 for 7 and taking three wickets in five balls: first as Tim Seifert top-edged a pull, before Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson were dismissed lbw and bowled respectively.
It capped a remarkable rise for Atkinson, who began the season out of the Surrey team, before a brisk showing against Middlesex, live on Sky, caught the eye of the wider world and backed up why he’d been on a number of England long lists for a while. One word: pace.
“I knew that once I got going, it could happen quickly,” Atkinson said. “I’ve always known my ability and what I can do and I always knew once I had a chance with the games… The Hundred’s a big opportunity and I knew if I could perform in that it would happen quickly and thankfully it has.”
“Probably a year-and-a-half now,” Atkinson said of how long the comparisons have been circulating. “I don’t like to think about that much to be honest.”
A calm character who team-mates say has noticeably come out of his shell over the last couple of years, Atkinson is a popular person in the dressing room. When asked by the Oval Invincibles media team what he would be if he weren’t a professional cricketer, his answer was model, a comment that received dressing-room wide laughter.
“One of my friends said, ‘you never know, we might get a smile out of you when you get your first [England] wicket’,” Atkinson joked after his understated celebration when Conway was dismissed. “So I was thinking of that once I got my wicket but yeah, I was obviously very happy inside.
“[It was] pretty amazing. To have my family here and some friends here and some fellow Surrey team-mates, I just tried to do what I’ve been doing for Surrey and the Oval Invincibles and thankfully it worked well for me tonight.
“I felt at home. You just want to get that first ball out of the way, then your first over, first wicket whatever and thankfully that came quickly. I was thinking about it a bit overnight, like hopefully my first over goes well, then I’ll be okay from there and thankfully it [was].
“I thought the nerves would kick in later on but once I got that first ball, first wicket and first over out of the way, then it was happy days.”
Atkinson is expected to be part of England’s wider fast-bowling arsenal for the ODI World Cup in India, despite having only played two List A games, both of which were in 2021.
“I haven’t played much 50-over cricket but I’ve played a bit of Championship cricket this year, so should be all right,” was his simple response.
But if Atkinson has earned the right to be anything this year, it’s confident. In the words of Bairstow: “I think that’s going to be the first cap of a few, definitely in this format and I’m sure in a few others as well.”
Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby