England v South Africa, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 5th day January 7, 2010

'Bunny' proves he's anything but

Graham Onions had seen it all before as he strode out at No. 11 with a Test match to save

Graham Onions had seen it all before as he strode out at No. 11 with a Test match to save, and duly guided England to a draw for the second time in three Tests. However, Andrew Strauss admitted being less confident in his last man, despite Onions' heroics at Centurion three weeks ago.

"I was feeling pretty comfortable until Graham went in there," Strauss said, which brought a smile from his fast bowler sat opposite. "But he did a great job again. I always feel that as batsmen we should apologise to him for having put him in that situation."

One minute Onions was watching Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood guide England to safety, the next he was the man in the firing line as he withstood a hostile Morne Morkel. He came within a whisker of gloving the penultimate ball of the match to the keeper, but TV replays confirmed it had brushed his shirt after the South Africans reviewed in desperation. The final ball then sailed harmlessly by off stump, before Onions punched the air and embraced with Graeme Swann.

"I thought Ian and Paul Collingwood got us into a fantastic position and with 10 overs to go I was thinking 'I'm quite happy with my trainers on and nothing to worry about'," Onions said. "All of a sudden a few wickets fell and I was next into bat."

Onions faced 11 balls in total as he and Swann survived the final 17 deliveries of a pulsating Test after South Africa had created a late chance to level the series. Having survived the last over against Makhaya Ntini at Centurion, Onions rated his efforts of fending off Morkel a greater achievement.

"It was a lot worse waiting to go into bat than actually being out there," he said. But it was just great again to eventually get that draw, as it felt a lot tougher. I felt in control of the situation but it was definitely harder than the one in the first Test.

"A lot of credit should go to their bowlers, I'm a massive admirer of Dale Steyn and I think he ran in and bowled so many overs. Hats off to both him and Morkel. He's a great bowler and I'm just thankful I managed to block it out again."

Onions nickname within the team is 'Bunny', one of the more original efforts going around as it relates to bunions, not batting ability. Which is just as well, because he is proving far from a rabbit with the bat and it makes all the extra work in the nets worthwhile when a bowler can help save a Test. It's not as if South Africa will need any more irking at the moment, but they won't like to hear that Onions' batting 'buddy' is none other than Jonathan Trott.

"I've been a lot of work with Phil Neale and my throw-down buddy Jonathon Trott has been doing a lot of technical stuff with me and just generally giving me a lot of confidence especially for days like these," Onions said. "I like to think I've prepared myself for days like these. Obviously, I'm not going to lie - I'd rather not be in that position, I'd rather see Belly see us through because he played so well. But to get a draw is the most important thing."

Even though the series now can't be lost for England, Strauss wants to ensure that England don't let South Africa off the hook in the final Test at the Wanderers. Although the Ashes victory will retain a special place in the hearts and minds of this squad, a win or draw next week will secure their most notable success since the 2005 Ashes when the Australians were near their peak.

"It's nice to know they can't win it. But ultimately, we came here to win this series and we're in a great position to do that," Strauss said. "We'll step on to that plane home pretty unhappy with ourselves if we allow them back in now.

"We understand we've got to be better than we were in this game at the Wanderers. But we're also quite buoyed by the fact we're 1-0 up and have a great opportunity to finish it off, come next week."

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • khalfan on January 9, 2010, 22:15 GMT

    YEAh!!! u the great payaz...saving england in 2 tests from losing.But tell me guys is it good for england's future that no.11 saves u from losing?I mean that if no.11 starts saving eng then wat will happen in future.I think its not a positive sign but a negaive sign for england so they shouldnt be happy of this.I know colly and bell produced their best but they didnt last-long till end so i think england should take precautions measures to solve this problem.I will pray to ALLAh that next time i hear that any top order batsmen saves england from losing not a no.11 batsmen.....

  • Charles on January 8, 2010, 21:42 GMT

    Great show and well played Onions. At last Ian Bell seems to have come of age. Collin, has always has tremendous courage and fight. Trott and Cook look pretty good. England is definetely on their way up and they have Flower to aid their progress. Inspite of Kevin not in the best of formsm these Englishmen will not go away. The one drawback is their bowling, which is a bit inconsistent apart from Swaan. They seem to have a new found self belief. South Africa unfortunately, call them chokers or plain luck, should have been 2-1 up. My money is on Englan to win in Australia. The Australians have been lucky against West Indies and Pakistan though they landed winning both series but this English team is tough. Ponting and Australia's days as a strong team are on the decling mode. In a year from now they will probably be ranked 4th or 5th in the world.

  • Ashwath on January 8, 2010, 17:08 GMT

    Chris martin remains the only true bunny in international cricket. He should surely get knighted for his batting skills

  • Nick on January 8, 2010, 16:05 GMT

    @Sharath_Sher - I'd have to disagree. I think the less frequent occurence of skittling out the tail end have got a lot more to do with improved tail end batsmen, than weaker bowlers. In this age or proffessionalism, players can't get buy being brilliant at just one aspect of the game. For instance, courtney walsh would be a laughing stock these days with his poor show with the bat - you just don't see a "useless no.11" anymore.

  • SUNIL on January 8, 2010, 15:41 GMT

    It seems as though England have learnt alot from fidel edwards and co. from their last tour of the west indies. On two occasions as well West Indies held of England to draw matches that eventually led to them winning the series 1 -0. England are now doing the same to South Africa. Having one good match while being dominated for rest of the series.

  • Govindrajan on January 8, 2010, 14:56 GMT

    India went through a similar experience in West Indies in 2006. Fidel Edwards and Corey Collymore saw off 19 deliveries and India was left 1 wicket short of victory at St. Johns. Then in the next test, there was rain for an entire day and India was 3 wickets short. India ended up winning that series, though.

    The excitement in these draws (and we have had 3 of them featuring England in the recent past) is far subtler and hence worth savouring as compared to the artificially induced excitement in T20. Oh yes, Test Cricket has been the clear winner over the last few months.

  • vinod on January 8, 2010, 10:41 GMT

    Yes, England have did it again in a span of 3 weeks time. And the final saviour in both the cases is Graham Onions. Peeling an Onion make one shed tears, thats what Smith and his men has probably learnt from these two test matches. Contributions of Collingwood did in both these test matches and Ian Bell's role in the final test. With an authoritative win in the second test, England have shown the world what team work is all about. They were written off by many pundits before over the recent years. Allan Border had way back in 1985-86 rebuilt Aussies to be world champions for more than two decades together, While taking over the reins as captain, Border had a completely depleted side and how he brought out the phoenix!!! Strauss is probably going the same way. Mind you they have lost the services of their best allrounder in recent years, Freddie. Swann is proving himself in both depts. Anderson has come off ages. Trott, Pietersen,Collingwood, Cook, Onions, Bell and even Prior. Kudos

  • Sharath on January 8, 2010, 10:31 GMT

    One thing that has become clear from the 3 matches England saved is that the current bowlers dont have the skill nor the guile to get the tailenders out. The teams are definetely missing the likes of Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, Wasim Akram or Waqar Younis who could get the lower order a lot easily simply because they could outthink them and also had the skills to execute their plans. SA also didnt have a good spinner who could have exploited the conditions a lot better. Even in most of the ODIs going around in the world currently, a score of 300 is easily achieved and the bowlers seems to have no clue on how to stop it.

  • William on January 8, 2010, 7:52 GMT

    the bottom line so far in this series is that so far, South Africa have failed to take 20 wickets in any test match, so even though England imploded twice to set up thrillers, I'm not sure it should have been getting to that stage anyway, but for cricket's sake it is good that they have - they are the true advertisers of test cricket.

    South Africa I didn;t think bowled very well in the last few overs, there was too much that was being allowed to leave. Their bowling has been the difference so far in this series.

  • Auchi on January 8, 2010, 7:08 GMT

    Way to go, England! Well done to all the players, especially Collingwood, Bell and Onions,

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