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September 21, 2013
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Players/Officials: Graham Onions
Series/Tournaments: England tour of Australia
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 ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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