England v Australia, 1st Test, Cardiff

Onions pips Harmison for final slot

Andrew Miller

July 5, 2009

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Who should have been in England's squad? Have your say

Graham Onions struck with two wickets in an over, England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Chester-le-Street, 4th day, May 17, 2009
Graham Onions will compete for a place in the first Ashes Test at Cardiff © Getty Images

Graham Onions will compete with Monty Panesar for England's final bowling spot in the first Test at Cardiff on Wednesday, after he and Ian Bell were named in a 13-man squad that includes all 11 of the players who took part in England's three-day warm-up against Warwickshire last week.

Onions, who played in England's last two Tests against West Indies in May, was chosen ahead of his Durham team-mate Steve Harmison, who impressed with a six-wicket haul for the England Lions against Australia at Worcester, but has been overlooked by the selectors since slipping out of favour during the winter tour of the Caribbean.

"We were keen to show consistency in selection and retain the nucleus of the side that performed so well against West Indies earlier this summer," said the national selector, Geoff Miller. "Graham Onions has made an excellent start to his Test career and gives us a different option when we consider the make-up of our bowling attack and the type of conditions we will encounter.

"There is healthy competition for places in our starting line-up at present and the strong performance by the England Lions against Australia at Worcester demonstrated that we are starting to develop a larger squad of players who can compete effectively with international class players."

If the heart called for Harmison's inclusion, after the fury of his performance against the Australians this week, the head always suggested that Onions would be permitted to continue in the role in which he excelled, in albeit subdued circumstances, earlier in the year. Having claimed five wickets on debut at Lord's, including four in seven balls, Onions impressed with his versatility in the second Test against West Indies at Chester-le-Street, where at various stages of the match he found swing, bounce and aggression to meet his team's requirements.

"It's a great feeling," Onions told Sky Sports. "I feel I've learnt a lot from the two games I've played. It shows the hard work pays off eventually. Everything is clicking, I'm pitching the ball up and doing a little more with it. The Australians are ahead of us, so bring it on."

Despite talk of England playing two spinners in Cardiff, Onions remains highly likely to complement the chosen triumvirate of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Andrew Flintoff, given that the venue's reputation as a raging turner has resulted in a mere 17 wickets for spinners, out of a possible 120, in three Championship matches this season. Regardless of his three morale-boosting wickets at Edgbaston on Thursday, Panesar's own figures for Northamptonshire at Cardiff last month were 2 for 149.

Continuity called for Onions' inclusion, even if Harmison is the last man that the Aussies would wish to line up against right now. Besides, the impression gleaned from the winter campaign in the Caribbean is that Harmison still has a lot of ground to make up with the management - not least the hard-bitten new coach, Andy Flower - after a lacklustre series of performances. His inclusion would have been expedient in the circumstances, but having gone to such lengths to arrange that squad bonding exercise in Flanders last week, it would have been peculiar if England went fishing outside their initial squad of 16 at this crucial stage of the series.

What is more, it is arguable that Harmison may already have done his job for this summer. In 2005, his furious five-wicket onslaught on the first morning at Lord's was the performance that spelt out to the Aussies the extent of the challenge that awaited them. If truth be told, he was rarely as effective thereafter - he made vital incisions, most notably the dismissals of Michael Clarke and Mike Kasprowicz at Edgbaston, but claimed just nine wickets at 50.22 in the remaining four Tests of the series.

What Harmison has done, however, is put on the sort of welcoming committee that Australian sides have habitually laid on for English touring teams. His unbridled hostility with the ball has been coupled with a selection of choice barbs that reveal an astonishing appetite for a tussle from a man who came across so meekly in Australia three years ago. It hasn't quite been like watching the long-retired Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson chopping England down to size in regular tour openers at Lilac Hill, but it's not far removed.

It was evidently a close-run decision, however, as suggested by the sight of Miller's fellow selectors, James Whitaker and Ashley Giles, joining him on the balcony at Worcester for the final day of the Lions match on Saturday. As fate would have it, the England captain, Andrew Strauss, arrived at the ground as well, just as Harmison and Onions were about to take the new ball in Australia's second innings.

Harmison himself had said he did not expect to feature at Cardiff, but the lurking menace of his Worcester performance is quite enough national service for now - in particular, the manner in which he has dissected the technique of Australia's wunderkind opener, Phillip Hughes. "I have put loads of doubt in him [Hughes]," said Harmison. "I imagine I've put doubt in a lot of the batsmen's minds."

As for the remaining 11 names in the squad, the speed with which they as a team left the field at Edgbaston on Friday afternoon revealed plenty about their mindset in the lead-in to the first Test. The time was 5pm on a perfect summer's afternoon, and the opportunity had been there for at least another hour and a half of fine-tuning. However, it was not deemed necessary by England's think tank, who have seen enough already, and just want to get the proper action underway now.

"We were delighted with the way in which the team performed in the warm-up match at Edgbaston and it was very encouraging to see Andrew Flintoff bowl so well on his return to the side," said Miller. With the exception of Kevin Pietersen, who was never likely to raise his game in such a low-key fixture, each of the top six made at least a half-century, while the bowlers enjoyed a useful work-out, with Anderson starring with 5 for 34 in the first innings.

As for the 13th man in the squad, Michael Vaughan's retirement had cleared the clutter quite nicely as far as the selectors were concerned. Regardless of his first-ball duck for the Lions, Bell's class is such that he was unlikely to be shunned at this stage of the series, even if his temperament has yet to convince everyone - including, quite possibly, the man himself.

"Ian Bell has performed well in county cricket this summer," said Miller. "He will act as cover batsman for this Test match should any of our established batsmen be unavailable through injury."

Test squad Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Matt Prior (wk), Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Graham Onions, Monty Panesar.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

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Posted by rmurthy on (July 7, 2009, 0:41 GMT)

Don't underestimate the Australians. I think you are in for a big surprise with a close series going to Aussies.

Posted by Jonnyb227 on (July 6, 2009, 14:50 GMT)

I think it is a fair call, Onions did amazing against the WI But where is Sidebottom probably our most consistent bowler.

Posted by Dantastic-Bowler on (July 6, 2009, 12:17 GMT)

Were the selectors right to leave out Harmison? I think so, he's like Dimitar Berbatov, he only plays well when he feels like it. As for Onions, he's proven to be a reliable and consistent performer this season and rightfully earns his place. Sidebottom is another reliable performer, albeit only against New Zealand and the West Indies, but he has just come back from injury.

I think the selectors got it dead right and i'm quietly confident about England's chances in the series.

Posted by 158notout on (July 6, 2009, 10:32 GMT)

Mandy - Hughes, North and Siddle versus Onions, Cook and Monty? What kind of comparison is that? Personally I would take Cook over Hughes any day, once Hughes has that many Test 100's we can talk again! As for Onions versus Siddle, fairly even but again I would go with Onions rather than a bricklayer. And how can you compare North and Monty? One is a part time spinner the other a full time spinner no-time bat/fielder who probably wont be in the team, despite his fairly impressive test record.

Posted by mrcrazyman95 on (July 6, 2009, 9:02 GMT)

What about Rashid?? the man can bat and he will be on a good pitvh a great spinner. So why pick an old monty, who hasnt been taking wickets?

Posted by mandybindra24 on (July 6, 2009, 4:20 GMT)

England squad looks pretty descent.But the Australian team has got likes of new players like Hughes,North and Siddle who look good when compared to the likes of Onions,Cook and Monty.KP is the best batsman in the England's line up and No.2 is Bopara.According to me this is the best team England could select but beware of the mighty AUSTRALIANS...............

Posted by dvd1986 on (July 6, 2009, 2:28 GMT)

This is a good squad of players, however I am concerned as to why sidebottom was omitted. I'm sure that the Bell and Onions will be carrying the drinks. I reckon this series will come down to who bowls better and judging from the warm ups, England have this series in the bag. The only selection I would really knock is Matt Prior. He is a shocking wicket-keeper and he's going to be keeping up to the stumps a lot. He is almost guaranteed to drop catches and if he gives a second chance to any of the top 7 Aussie batsmen, they'll make England pay dearly. I don't understand the obsession of England picking batsmen-keepers. There are awesome glovemen in England who are a lot less likely to drop catches/miss stumpings. This series will be nothing like 2005 and I'm sure England aren't thinking about that. I reckon the statement of not picking Harmison justifies that thought. England have more wicket takers in there squad, therefore should win the test match.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (July 5, 2009, 23:59 GMT)

Personally I did not expect any surprises. Having watched bits of the Lions game I am worried by what Lee might do-he was so fiery in that spell which ripped out the cream of the order. Great spectacle.Warne has gone and Hauritz and North would make a lot of us want to pad up, but the Aussie pace attack is hot, I reckon. Can the batsmen assembled play that sort of bowling? Bell as cover should not be considered for 3; he scratches around like an old hen in that position, and seems a split personality in his batting.Good only for 5 or 6. Cover for top order would better suited to Moore or Denly. But I expect the order in place to stay most of the series. The bowling is really determined by whether Harmison is to be trusted.Onions is good but more of a control bowler.Rashid sadly looked inadequate at Worcester,and Monty at least puts the ball there time and time again. Can the attack take 20 wickets if the pitches are bland? Doubtful. Lets hope for sporting ones.

Posted by TestMatchLover on (July 5, 2009, 21:57 GMT)

Shouls have picked both Onions and harmison. I'd love to see the jokes about tripe and onions. I guess my memory is short - I still have visions of Harmison barely able to land it on the square. Sidebottom - yes, yes, yes. Proven wicket taker, adds considerable variety to the attack especially if Swann is picked rather than Panesar.

Posted by TheThreeWs on (July 5, 2009, 21:40 GMT)

Is Sidebottom injured? Is Owais Shah in worse form than Ian Bell?

Posted by philvic on (July 5, 2009, 21:04 GMT)

I think the Australians will love that selection. Onions had a good series against WI but his county career suggests he like Broad is unlikely to consistently test the best. Anderson on a good day may. Flintoff if properly fit is the best but will he last out? I think Sidebottom should have been the first on the teamsheet and Harmison was worth a gamble too.

Posted by InDipper on (July 5, 2009, 18:08 GMT)

I think they got it right not picking Harmison. This was consistency of selection and it would have been hugely harsh to have dropped Onions - the leading wicket taker in county cricket and already a successful performer for England. I also think Flower is stamping his authority down again, further dismissing the "clique mentality" that has hounded the team since 2005. Symptomatic of Bell and Vaughan departures. Bravo I say: www.theindipper.wordpress.com

Posted by Submitter111 on (July 5, 2009, 17:42 GMT)

i think that the series would be tough, but australia have a little edge with inclusion of in form phillip hughes. the swing of johnson and lee would be very hard for england to manage but england have good spinners which australia lack

Posted by Dan-argent on (July 5, 2009, 16:53 GMT)

I am disappointed with this squad. Ian Bell is not mentally or physically capable at Test level and should be discarded forever. If they want an extra batsman, why did they not pick Stephen Moore, who hit an excellent century for the Lions? Onions is the right decision, however. Harmison should also never grace a Test arena again for similar reasons to Bell, and he is also to inconsistent. Sidebottom appears too susceptible to injury and hot-headed for such a high-pressure series. Another incorrect decision is picking Monty Panesar instead of Adil Rashid as the second spinner. Monty seems to have been a flash in the pan and is in terrible bowling form, as well as being a poor batsman. Rashid is a better bowler and can chip in with a few runs, as he showed against Australia. This squad only enforces my belief that Australia will win the series 3-1.

Posted by cyborg on (July 5, 2009, 16:16 GMT)

my team is Andrew strauss (capt), Alastair cook,Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood ,Andrew Flintoff ,Monty Panesar, James Anderson, Graham Onions stuart broad , matt prior (wk). Ian bell should carry drinks the entire series . australia look strong, watching pointing bat he will be up for it always when the first test comes on. the same way england lost last time : KP IS NOT GOING TO SCORE RUNS I BELIEVE. THE YOUNG GUYS LOOK PRETTY GOOD WATCH OUT ENGLAND.


Posted by Jusdre on (July 5, 2009, 15:30 GMT)

I really believe in past performances. If any one saw Harmison bowl would agreee with me that he deserves a crack at the Aussies,he clearly showed the hunger for it. All the same England shall win the Ashes comfortably.

Posted by Av79 on (July 5, 2009, 15:11 GMT)

One becomes inured to the stupidity of selectors after a while, but the omission of Sidebottom must surely be one of the stupidest moves in living memory. Probably the world's premier swing bowler (Australians having been found out time and again against quality swing bowling, most dramatically in the corresponding 2005 fixture), and consistently England's best for the past 18 months, there's no doubt whatsoever that he should have the new ball in his hand.

His omission means the following: You have a wildly inconsistent performer (in Anderson) sharing the new ball with a man who bowls decently enough, but doesn't seem to take wickets at test level. Flintoff is therefore going to have to shoulder more load than would be advisable. They may choose to play two spinners (neither of whom will be significantly more effective than Giles was in 2005 - mark them down for the occasional wicket at 35+) or play a vastly inexperienced and moderately impressive Graham Onions

The mind boggles

Posted by vulpecula on (July 5, 2009, 15:02 GMT)

The England team picks itself thus - Strauss, Cook, Bell, Bopara, Pietersen, Flintoff, Prior, Broad, Swann, Harmison, Anderson.

Posted by boris6491 on (July 5, 2009, 13:52 GMT)

Wrong move to bring in Onions in my opinion. It should have been Sidebottom. Onions is too new to international cricket to be in England's plans for a series with so much on the line. And Panesar has not earned his spot through performances. Hes been playing for the Northants second XI while Adil Rashid has picked up more wickets and is without doubt in better form. otherwise England do have a fairly strong squad. It will be an interesting series.

Posted by Kit_Silver on (July 5, 2009, 13:38 GMT)

As always with the new selection committee they throw a couple of spanners in with the regulars. I'm amazed that Ryan Sidebottom isn't in this squad! When he wasn't picked for either England or the Lions I assumed his place was already pencilled in and that they were giving him a rest. It perplexed me slightly then that he turned up for his county side but thought nothing of it until the squad was announced and he wasn't there. Is he injured? Hasn't he played enough since injury to be considered yet? In Illingworth's day at least he picked the players who were in form. That would mean Harmison (on this week's performance) before Onions and put him back in ahead of Panesar. The non-inclusion of Harmison is all the more poignant as it means there is only Flintoff among the seamers to rough the batsmen up and Philip Hughes will have made a start by the time he comes on.

Posted by Steve1000 on (July 5, 2009, 13:26 GMT)

Before we toured the windies last winter Ryan Sidebottom had been our best bowler for over year taking a shed load of wickets. He's now back fit a nd bowling fast so why aint he in. Our bowling attack should be Flintoff, Sidebottom, Anderson, Broad and Swann. All offer something different and all can hold a bat which is needed against the Aussies.

Posted by SamratSunny on (July 5, 2009, 12:45 GMT)

Nice selection. My best 11 will be like this. Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior (wk), Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Graham Onions. I drop Ian Bell, Monty Panesar from the best 11. If England need to win they must take all wickets of very balanced Australian batting order. So,better to play with 5 specialist bowlers, cause Andrew Flintoff can bat and Matt Prior also can bat. Good luck England. We want to see a very good Ashes like 2005, which was exciting and mindblowing.

What do you make of England's squad?
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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
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