The Ashes 2013-14 September 21, 2013

Onions still hopes for one more Test


When Graham Onions was left out of the England side to play in the fourth Ashes Test in Durham, many drew their own conclusions. If he wasn't going to be picked on his home ground, a ground where he had excelled for years, what chance did he have of winning selection elsewhere?

But if Onions Test career is over, no one has told him. Having just played a vast role in helping the side to their third County Championship title in six years - he has taken 67 first-class wickets for them this season at a cost of just 18.07 apiece - he has proved to himself, if not the selectors, that he still has what it takes to play at the highest level.

Aged 31 and with the patches of grey starting to join in his hair, Onions knows the chance of the long Test career his talent might have warranted has gone. A serious back injury ruled him out of cricket for much of 2010 and presented a serious threat to his future in the game. What is more, it allowed other seamers to move ahead of him in the England reckoning and, perhaps, robbed him of just a little of his pace. In an age where the selectors, rightly or wrongly, put much store in height, pace and bounce, that was a serious blow.

But Onions virtues are as timeless as they as priceless. Accuracy and movement will never go out of fashion and, on a pitch offering just a little bit of assistance, he remains the most dangerous seamer in the county game.

"I've still got a dream," Onions said as he reflected on Durham's triumph. "I'm 31 now and I still have huge aspirations to play one more Test.

"I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to say I'm going to play another 50 Tests. But I want to play that one more game.

"I remember when I had my back injury I said I just want one more game. That happened and of course you want to be greedy, you want to play one more. But I am convinced that if I do get an opportunity, if I do get into that side then I've got a chance of staying in there. It will be up to me to stay in there.

"I know that if I perform well in county cricket I've always got a chance of playing for England. If I'm being completely honest I want to play for England."

That 'one more game' Onions talks about took place at Edgbaston in June 2012. With James Anderson and Stuart Broad rested, Onions came into the side and performed admirably in a rain-ruined contest.

But the match will always be remembered for Tino Best's remarkable innings of 95; an innings that took the gloss off the figures of several of the bowlers and is remembered as highlighting the perceived impotence of the attack sans its normal strike bowlers. Onions' fine figures, 4 for 88 from 29.3 overs, were somewhat unfairly overshadowed.

So while he enjoys leading the attack for Durham, Onions admitted it is the thought of representing England that motivates him as much as winning domestic trophies.

"County cricket is good for me," Onions said. "I enjoy it. I enjoy getting into rhythm. I enjoy bowling lots of overs. The most important thing for me is I enjoy playing for this club.

"I didn't know the Ashes squad was getting picked, but of course I will be on tenterhooks. It would be fantastic. I want to play for England in Australia definitely.

"That's what keeps driving me to get out of bed in the morning, for days like these and to play for England. I still feel as though I've got a part to play, I still feel I could force my way into that side.

"But it's not easy as we know from the last few years. I've not played a great deal of cricket for England. It's just a case of keeping on working as hard as I possibly can and getting better each season. I am convinced that eventually I will get into that side."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rod on September 23, 2013, 13:29 GMT

    I really think Tremlett and Onions are just there to test the batsmen in the nets. Tremlett is not the same since last year's injury and I am afraid Rankin is above him in the reckoning now. Onions is really only there as cover for Jimmy Anderson. The fact is that fast bowlers who aren't called Kallis aren't going to last as long as he has. It's hard work and Australian Summers are hot. Good batsmen need something special to get them out, even on quick pitches ... and we've already seen this Summer what happens when Anderson gets overbowled. He and Swann are well over 30 and that is why England needs a five man attack. If Bresnan isn't available, I think they will blood Stokes as he has more potential upside than someone like Bairstow at No 6, even though he's relatively untried. Five bowlers do NOT mean playing two spinners; you need four seamers in Australia. Pietersen is a decent part time off spinner who dismissed Clarke last time England went to Australia. He has to be used more.

  • Gary on September 22, 2013, 19:38 GMT

    Over a summer to savour for Durham fans like myself, the performances of Graham Onions have been consistently outstanding. It's hard to criticise England's decision not to include him in the starting XI when they win a series 3-0, but it would be nothing short of scandalous if he were to be overlooked for the touring party named on Monday for the Ashes return. He must also be a certainty to be named the county cricketer of the year.

  • a on September 22, 2013, 19:17 GMT

    comments suggesting Onions and Tremlett should replace Broad and Bresnan are OTT. Bresnan is bowls a lot with the old ball so fits well with Anderson and Broad taking new ball. Broad can look weak at times but cant argue with the fact that he is leading test wickettaker over last year.

    difficult to judge how good Onions is- might also be flattered by playing on seam friendly tracks in home championship games. Conversely Tremlett may be playing better than stats suggest given how placid Oval can be. Onions for me ought to be no 4 choice, Rankin 5, Tremlett 6. Finn has deteriorated a bit but his potential may mean he rather than Tremlett gets nod for Aus.

    Comments about England picking bits and pieces players are off the mark. It has rarely happened in last decade. Woakes and Stokes are perhaps bits and pieces right now but both have potential to be test class in at least one suit

  • Brian on September 22, 2013, 19:01 GMT

    @THOR12155: Fair play to you, although I think the likelihood of England dispensing with Broad, Bresnan and Finn all at once to make way for Onions and Tremlett is not great. Not that I'm saying that shouldn't happen. I realise that continuity is the buzzword these days and this is seen as a constituent factor in England's relative success, but it does seem to me both that sticking with the same line-up can be overdone, and that England's recent success is only relative; they are after all no.2 in the world in tests, not no.1. According to his cricinfo profile, Mike Brearley had a habit, when England captain, when England endured difficult phases in matches and his judgements were questioned, of pointing out that the alternative could have been still worse. Fair enough, but the reverse logic should also apply when things are going well. I wonder why therefore so many observers of English cricket these days are not prepared to consider that alternatives could be still better ...

  • Nicholas on September 22, 2013, 16:42 GMT

    I'm in agreement with those saying that England need to focus much more on finding good bowlers like Onions who can bowl, and batsmen who can simply bat - and enough already with this trying to find a 'Jack of all trades who rarely manages to master/contribute with any' experiment. The likes of Onions are way ahead in the pecking order than Stokes in my opinion, but sadly after a few average performances in ODI's suddenly the latter is suddenly in contention it seems...

  • Dark Man on September 22, 2013, 12:31 GMT

    @ TenDonebyaShooter; (I think you must be a Ryan Tendo fan) I fully agree with you... Onions never had a bad game and has never let England down.. He should be in the side.. no doubt mate! But there are others like Broad and Bresnan... Tremlett should be in for one of those guys... Tremlett only had one bad game in Dubai where the pitch was a spinning paradise.. Had England selectors given him 10 more games, He would have taken 100 + wickets by now.. Onions can play when the condition suits him.. but Tremlett will be an asset in any condition with his height and accuracy....

  • Dummy4 on September 22, 2013, 12:14 GMT

    Tremlett simply hasn't been the same bowler since his injury. His county record this season is poor. Always liked what he brings but he's now far below Onions IMO, & Rankin's emergence proves that

  • W on September 22, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    Onions should be picked ahead of Broad and Bresnan.

  • Brian on September 22, 2013, 9:11 GMT

    Selectors', pundits' and supporters' attitudes to Onions are strongly reminiscent of those to Martin Bicknell and Glenn Chapple, two other bowlers who got precious little chance for England because their "style" and "lack of pace" was said to be "not suited" to international cricket. This would be a stronger argument if there were any evidence for it. Much the same could have been said of Chris Old, Ryan Sidebottom, Mike Hendrick and Matthew Hoggard, and I think you'll find their records stack up OK. Meanwhile Onions has never let England down, which is more than can be said for bowlers of the pacier type supposed to be requisite in test cricket, e.g., Steve Finn, Steve Harmison, Martin McCague, Devon Malcolm, Alan Ward, and Norman Cowans. @ THOR12155: fair enough, Tremlett only had one bad test, but I think you'll find that Onions has never had a bad game for England.

  • James on September 22, 2013, 8:41 GMT

    I feel sorry for this bloke, I would have had him in ever since 2009. As an aussie supporter I am of the opinion that England discards a lot of their good cricketers. How many of the team of 2005 do we hear about now? Steve Harmison, Hoggard, Jones (though injury hampered) I just feel that England didn't really cater for these guys enough, even with their great hero Flintoff i feel he was on the outer by the end of career and felt left out.

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