Back surgery rules Onions out of reckoning for Ashes

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The Independent Online

Graham Onions, who had looked likely to play a key part in England's campaign to retain the Ashes, is fighting to save his career. The fast bowler, quietly influential in the triumphant series against Australia last year, is to have back surgery which will keep him out of the game for at least nine months.

The operation next week will be a last-ditch attempt to treat stress fractures which have already forced him to miss the whole of this season. He left England's tour of Bangladesh with the injury in February, but was initially confident of being fit for Durham at the start of the English summer. The ECB chief medical officer, Dr Nick Peirce, said yesterday: "We have thoroughly exhausted all avenues of conservative treatment and rehabilitation with surgery is very much seen as a last resort."

Fast bowlers in the past have recovered from career-threatening back injuries, most notably Dennis Lillee, the great Australian who missed more than a year, and became one of the most feared of all bowlers. At almost 28, however, Onions is also running out of time.

He made a startling entry into Test cricket last year by taking five quick wickets in an innings against West Indies at Lord's and had an incisive spell on the second morning at Edgbaston against Australia.

While Onions was deeply disappointed to miss out on the chance to play in the Ashes, the hopes of two improbable Australians have been raised. The opening batsman Philip Hughes and teenage fast bowler Josh Hazlewood were named yesterday in the Test squad for the tour of India. Hughes was dropped after two Ashes Tests last year and Hazlewood has played only six first-class matches.

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