Onions to provide bowling cover
Graham Onions, the Durham pace bowler, will travel with the England squad to UAE next month to provide cover for the fast-bowling attack in the opening weeks of the trip.
Onions won't be an official member of the squad which was named on Friday but the selectors want to ensure there is adequate back-up available to Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss with three of the quick bowlers - Stuart Broad (shoulder), Chris Tremlett (back) and Tim Bresnan (elbow) - recovering from injuries.
Tremlett hasn't featured for England since the first Test against India, at Lord's, and Broad hasn't played since the fourth ODI against the same team at the same ground in September. Both are currently in South Africa, along with Onions and James Anderson, at a training camp with the performance programme players. Bresnan, meanwhile, recently underwent elbow surgery to remove a bone fragment.
The England management are hopeful all three will be fit for selection ahead of the first Test against Pakistan, in Dubai, on January 17 and if Onions isn't required he is likely to return home when that match begins.
"We've obviously got some niggles from the seamer point of view, so Graham Onions will go out there in a cover capacity," Geoff Miller, the national selector, said. "If he's not required then he'll probably come back after the first Test, or even during it."
Onions hasn't played for England since the third Test against South Africa, at Newlands, in early 2010 after suffering a career-threatening back injury. However, he was back around the national set-up last season when he was called into the Test squad as cover for Anderson at The Oval. He then went to Ireland with the one-day squad and flew out to India for the ODI series in October after injury to Chris Woakes.
Onions may yet find himself in a similar position to Ajmal Shahzad, the Yorkshire pace bowler, on last year's Ashes tour when Shahzad started as an unofficial 17th member of the squad during the warm-up matches before the management decided to keep him on for the whole of the Test series.