Swann an injury doubt but Onions relishes return


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The Independent Online

England were waiting anxiously last night for news of Graeme Swann's tight quadriceps. The world's leading off-spinner was bouncing around as ever like the Easter Bunny, if only metaphorically. He seemed blissfully unconcerned about the extent of the injury which forced him to miss most of the last day of the first practice match on Monday.

He was sent for a scan on the area yesterday and the results were sent for assessment by the ECB's medical team at home overnight. The management will be desperate for Swann to play in the second and final warm-up, against a Pakistan Cricket Board XI, which starts today.

Swann is a bowler who needs plenty of overs to find his range and his rhythm. He looked decidedly lacking in fluency during England's narrow victory against the ICC Combined XI. With figures of 2-99 and 1-33, the improvement in the second innings was obvious but the opposition were mischievously eager to point out that he did not turn the ball. Given his crucial role in the Test series against Pakistan starting next Tuesday, Swann needs all the bowling in the middle he can get. But England will not dare risk aggravating his injury.

Graham Onions, who has replaced Tim Bresnan in the squad, seems certain to be given a game with Chris Tremlett still suffering from an eye infection. It would be an overdue return for Onions, who showed himself to be of true international class in the eight Test matches he played, before he was injured in Bangladesh almost two years ago.

Forced eventually to have surgery on his back which now has a pin inserted in it, he missed a year of cricket. He worked his way back to form last season and is undoubtedly touched to be on the verge of a return. "After surgery I didn't feel I'd be here again," he said. "But if I get selected for the warm-up match and take five wickets there's a serious opportunity for me to get into the first Test side.

"I did a lot of hard work but always at the back of mind was that when I bowl that first ball, what if I'm not quite right? That was quite a hard thing to take but on the other hand it always made me train a little harder. I don't think about the back now."

It is difficult to see Onions making the team for the first Test but considering the dramatic nature of his surgery it is astonishing that he is realistically contemplating an international return at all.

Meaker at the four to skittle Bangladeshis

Four wickets from Stuart Meaker set England Lions on their way as they levelled their seven-match one-day series with Bangladesh A at 1-1.

The Surrey fast bowler removed Rony Talukder and Raqibul Hasan early and returned to snare the last two wickets in successive deliveries as Bangladesh were bowled out for 176 despite Nazimuddin's unbeaten 99.

Jonny Bairstow led the Lions' chase with an unbeaten half-century as they wrapped up a six-wicket win with more than 12 overs to spare.

Meaker struck with the fourth ball of the match, bowling Talukder, before leaving Nazimuddin stranded short of his century when he bowled Enamul Haque and then Robiul Islam at the first time of asking to finish with 4-47 from eight overs.