Onions desperate to prove England worth

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The Independent Online

Graham Onions is aiming to prove England picked the most potent Durham fast bowler after all during the winter tour of South Africa.

Onions, 27, made both Test and one-day parties, along with Riverside colleague Liam Plunkett, although most of the attention on selection was paid to the omission of another in Steve Harmison.

However, operating under the radar has had its successes for Onions, who made such an impression in his first handful of internationals that he was shortlisted for the world's emerging player award earlier this month.

Having taken 20 wickets in five Tests and also shown an ability to remove top-order players in one-day internationals, his place in England's plans was emphasised by the award of a central contract.

"I am 27, some people ask me whether I wish I was 20 again but I don't," said Onions.

"I have worked hard, had a lot of ups and downs and now I am playing for England.

"I am absolutely loving the journey so far, and long may it continue.

"I would like to think I will not change as a person whether I go on to play 100 Tests or 10.

"I will definitely play each game as though it's my last and that is the best way to do it.

"Because if you go out there thinking 'I've signed a central contract, it doesn't really matter for the first half of the year' it doesn't work. I want to play for England and make a difference.

"For me to make a difference I need to be fit, strong and take wickets."

Although he was first called up to the senior squad by Duncan Fletcher in 2006 - and was naturally disappointed not to play a game - it was not until this year that Onions finally burst through.

There have been some struggles in the interim with Ottis Gibson's Indian summer as a bowler forcing him onto the sidelines at Durham for spells in 2007 and injuries restricting his appearances in the county's debut championship-winning season of 2008.

It was work in the winter between with England Lions coach Kevin Shine that was crucial for his development, however, particularly his confidence.

"Kevin just told me I was good enough," said Onions.

"You hear that a lot but when you start doing well you actually start to believe it. I got a lot of confidence from that.

"Then I started working with Ottis Gibson and everything started to click.

"It has taken me a long time to realise that it is not that hard a game, made slightly complicated.

"Of course, as you get older you learn about yourself and in county cricket the best players are slightly older.

"They know their game inside out. I am nowhere near completely knowing my game but I feel as though I am getting there, I am mentally a lot stronger than I was and my body is stronger as well, which is a massive bonus."

Even allowing for being ditched for the decisive Test at The Oval, confidence was also gleaned from prising out Australians this past summer.

And his ability to bowl full and straight from the off, with a hint of swing when conditions suit, should ensure South Africa's top order face a similar challenge.

"In Test cricket I have always picked up a wicket quite early even if I have gone for 20-odd in my first three overs," Onions reflected.

"I have been going for runs but I have always known I can get better and that I am picking up wickets, which is a great feeling.

"If you feel good about yourself, you have a smile on your face, then you are going to be pretty positive.

"I used to be a bit of a sulker and get down quite easily but now I reflect on the fact I love doing this job."