September 09, 1982, Gateshead
Right hand bat
Right arm medium fast
St Thomas More RC School, Blaydon
Another pace bowler off the Durham production line - brisk and tenacious with a name to delight headline writers - Graham Onions had become a key part of the England team before suffering a career-threatening injury in early 2010. England's interest waned as a result, even though Onions' form in county cricket remained masterful. Intimations were that his pace was slightly reduced and that he prospered on responsive Riverside pitches. Nobody was presented more often as an example of England's alleged lack of regard for achievements in the county game.
That back injury was serious enough for him to fear he might never play again. He needed extensive surgery and privately feared that his career might be over as he was kept out action for a season. A five-inch titanium pin was inserted in the left side of his back to heal and prevent a recurring stress fracture - "imagine a broken polo mint that is starting to crack" is how Onions explained it - and a long period of rehabilitation began. He considered retraining as an umpire, a coach or even leaving the game and becoming a teacher
But he fought his way back, firstly with Durham and then, after a 29-month absence from international cricket, for England against West Indies at Edgbaston - after a long road to recovery.
He first caught the eye during the 2006 season and did enough to earn a place in England's provisional 30-man squad for the Champions Trophy, but it wasn't until 2009 that he secured his Test debut. He was called up to replace Darren Gough in England's one-day squad against Pakistan in September 2006 and that winter toured Bangladesh with England A. The 2007 season was more of a struggle as Ottis Gibson's outstanding form often forced him out of the side, but he still spent the following winter with the England Lions where his game continued to develop.
As Durham claimed their maiden Championship title in 2008, Onions spent most of the season laid up with a string of injuries, and when he was fit couldn't force his way back into a strong line-up. No honours followed that winter, but hard work on his fitness paid off at the start of the following season when strong form was rewarded with a call-up to the squad to face West Indies. Then, as if making up for lost time, he hurtled onto the honours board with debut figures of 5 for 38, including a sensational spell of four wickets in seven balls. He subsequently played an important role in England's successful Ashes campaign, including a memorable double strike from the first two deliveries of day two of the third Test at Edgbaston.
His stature grew during England's tour to South Africa after the Ashes, where it was not just his wicket-to-wicket seam bowling that made an impact. He could almost lay claim to the Man-of-the-Series award as he twice held firm with the bat to salvage a draw for his side from the brink of defeat. In the first Test at Centurion, England were nine down when Onions came out to join Durham team-mate Paul Collingwood with 19 balls remaining. He repelled 12 deliveries to ensure England remained level and then, in the third Test at Cape Town did it all again. England had once again collapsed and it was left to Onions to withstand 11 deliveries, including a hostile final over from Morne Morkel, to defy South Africa once more.
The following week he was controversially omitted for the final Test and although he began the subsequent tour of Bangladesh, he soon flew home. It was the start of his biggest fight yet as injury soon struck.
Onions made his return to the international fold, claiming 4 for 88 in the rain-affected draw against West Indies at Edgbaston in the in June 2012. It was his only England action of the summer, although his form for Durham was outstanding. He took 64 Championship wickets at 14.98, his most noteworthy performance a career-best 9 for 67 against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, where he denied himself the chance of taking all 10 wickets by running out Luke Fletcher. He was chosen for the England squads that toured India and New Zealand in the 2012-13 winter programme.
Durham's title success in 2013 was built on his foundations. No one took more wickets, no one who took more than 20 wickets did so at a lower average, and no one took more five-wicket hauls. But he was still shunned by England, who misguidedly took a trio of giant fast bowlers to Australia instead. His only failing, it seemed, came when he was pitted against the England tape measure. When injury disrupted his 2014 season, at 31 his chances of an England recall were slim but he still carried a heavy Durham workload uncomplainingly.
Surprisingly, he broke links with Durham in 2017, rejecting a two-year contract at Durham where the second year depended on him remaining injury free and joining Lancashire where he could also contemplate more coaching opportunities. That he had not lost the bowling knack was underlined in his first season when he took 57 wickets and he and Tom Bailey (who took 64) claimed 49% between them.
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