Cow Corner

Why England must make room for Onions in fourth Test

Cow Corner

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There is a saying that is both endorsed and derided in equal measure when it comes to team selections ahead of Tests: 'horses for courses'.

Some believe wholeheartedly that certain players should be picked according to the conditions, wicket, ground and other factors; others think it is absurd to drift from simply selecting the best 11 players at any one time.

Equally, with England 2-0 up in an Ashes series, many believe that there is no need for tinkering or giving other players a chance: after all, if there are no fundamental problems, why change anything?

But there is often more logic in looking to improve from a position of strength, and that is where England find themselves after having already retained the Ashes in the third drawn Test at Old Trafford.

One man who has bided his time with admirable patience and toured with England as a perennial isotonic-carrier while performing superbly for his county is Graham Onions.

From the moment that Chester-le-Street was rather controversially awarded the fourth Ashes Test, Onions must have surely believed that this could finally be the time that he is given another opportunity to shine in an England shirt.

The chance cannot must now not be missed for England to give the tenacious and talented paceman another go with the freshness of the fast-bowling unit questionable for what is a second Test in quick succession.

The 30-year-old's stats back up his push to be included in the fourth Test in Durham, and team director Andy Flower has indicated that he is very close to being selected. Teams are not selected by what is considered fair, but Onions's performances validate a promotion.

Onions earned rave reviews for Durham against Middlesex in the County Championship as recently as last week, taking 7-62 in the first innings and nine in the match.




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The fast bowler has 44 victims to his name at an average of just under 21 in the Championship this season.

Since the start of 2011, Onions has taken 178 first-class wickets at an average of 22.17 apiece. He has the weight of such performances behind him, and he thoroughly deserves another chance at the highest level.

Chester-le-Street tends to reward bowlers who pitch the ball up and look to nip it about off the seam and with a touch of late swing, and that suits Onions's approach perfectly.

Chris Tremlett could be a key option for England in the reverse series Down Under if his fitness holds up, but this is not the place for him to flourish, while it could provide Alastair Cook with the chance to rest one of his other fast bowlers for the fourth Test.

As Flower said in the lead-up to the match: "We thought Tremlett’s type of bowling was more useful in Manchester and he was the spare bowler had anyone gone down on the morning of the match.

“Up at Durham it might be slightly different and Onions has been in good form all summer, but his selection is nothing to do with him taking wickets at Middlesex."

With the Ashes already retained, England will be looking to test out the players on the fringe of the side if appropriate before the arduous tour of Australia later in the year, and Onions could turn out to be a very key player.

But this is far from affording a player an opportunity for the sake of it: Onions would improve the England side playing at his home ground in conditions that very much suit his style of bowling.

England need to look to progress and to improve from a position of strength, and Australia dominated the third drawn Test in Manchester which represented a poor performance from the hosts compared to the displays at Trent Bridge and Lord's.

Onions should be afforded another chance at Chester-le-Street on Friday as cases can be made for any of England's existing fast bowlers to be left out with some in need of a rest while others have been out of form, such as Stuart Broad, whose six wickets at 54 runs apiece have not set the series alight.

It's not just that the conditions suit his bowling, but that his consistent performances demand that he is given another opportunity to show what he can do on the biggest stage of all.

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