Onions seizes his moment

The England seamer has featured in selectorial thoughts for years, writes Stephen Brenkley but only recently has he lived up to his evident potential

Something suddenly clicks with fast bowlers. Occasionally it can happen at 22 if someone bowls like the wind, sometimes it takes little longer to become an overnight sensation.

For instance, Mitchell Johnson, from whom Australia expect so much this summer, has been around for yonks but he is 27 and it is five years since Dennis Lillee, who knows about such matters, described him as a once-in-a-generation fast bowler.

But Johnson found his game last winter. To the fast ball going across the right-hander he appears to have added an inswinger and it looks as though he can reverse swing it as well. In Graham Onions, England have also found a bowler who has found himself at last.

Onions, 26, has been among a crop of young fast bowlers who featured in selectorial thoughts for a few years: fast enough, fit enough. The door was closed by the insistence on consistent selection policy but also by not doing quite enough.

Last summer, Onions played a minimal role in Durham's charge to the County Championship and after suffering a heel injury was left out of the side for the run-in. But he took a long hard look at himself in the winter.

He had failed to gain selection for the England Lions tour which put him behind, at least, 10 other pace bowlers in the country. Onions, for once, had a proper close season and spent it working on his fitness and stamina. It has repaid him and he has taken five wickets in an innings five times including his 5-38 when bowling in a Test innings for the first time, against West Indies at Lord's.

Two weeks ago, he bowled Durham to victory by taking 7-38 against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, where the third Test will be played, and he is comfortably the season's leading wicket taker. Yet he seemed stunned to have been selected for an Ashes squad.

"It's absolutely unbelievable," he said. "I feel I have learnt a lot from the two Tests I have played and the Lions game just gone. It's quite hard to think from last winter that I'm in the squad and I just can't wait."

The selectors might easily have been swayed by Harmison's rousing efforts with the new ball for England Lions against Australia at Worcester last week. To watch him bowl was to be reminded of the enduring qualities which set him apart. He took four wickets in the Australians' first innings and twice bounced out their new boy wonder batsman, Phillip Hughes. But Geoff Miller and his panel, including the team coach, Andy Flower, will have considered three other matters.

First, there is the probable slow state of the pitch at Sophia Gardens. Second, they will have counted the number of false dawns into which Harmison has emerged over the years. Third, the form of Onions is self-evident, and he is capable of swing and skids the ball on.

Miller was rightly adamant in saying that Onions deserved his place. "He bowls very straight, bowls wicket to wicket, shapes it well and puts pressure on. He can bowl all day for you and if the conditions are right he can knock people over for you as well, especially against left-handers."

Although Harmison was the more eye-catching, Onions did his work well enough and dismissed Ricky Ponting with one that moved away. When Ponting described Harmison as having the attributes to be one of the all-time great fast bowlers, he was describing a player, it should not be forgotten, whose 221 Test wickets have cost 31.79 runs each.

But it is heartening not only that Harmison has returned to form but that he has worked so hard to do so. He needs bowling and he has bowled with fire and heart. It is also too often forgotten what a fine team man he is.

As he prepared to depart Worcester on Saturday night he knew he had been overlooked despite doing most of what could have been asked. But his thoughts were for his county team-mate.

"I can't speak highly enough of Steve Harmison," said Onions. "When he left the ground yesterday he said he was just a phone call away, which is great. He has played 60-odd Test matches and I have to look to him for advice. Steve has helped me so much in my career."

Onions is the man of the moment, however, and although he is not certain of his place in Cardiff for the first Test which begins on Wednesday, the selectors could easily decide finally that two spinners is simply too much of a gamble. They have picked a bowler in magnificent form and as he has a name that demands larking about with you could say that they have Onions but no tripe.

Know your Onions: The lowdown

*Age: 26. Born 9 September 1982 in Gateshead.



*Onions was first brought into the England squad in September 2006, replacing the injured Darren Gough against Pakistan in a one-day international series. However, Onions did not play in any of the fixtures.



*The right-arm medium-fast bowler took 7-39 in a one-day match for the England Lions against the Maharashtra Cricket Association in 2008, his best 50-over figures to date.



*Onions plays for Durham, for whom he has taken 40 wickets at 13.07 this season. He has a first-class career bowling average of 29.40, from 63 matches.



*He made his Test debut for England against West Indies on 6 May this year. He impressed, taking 5 for 38, including three wickets in an over.

Suggested Topics
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit