x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Onions: the Australians are beatable

The Durham seamer is not fazed by the task of wrestling the urn back from the Australians.

The start of the Ashes has not come quickly enough for England as they bid not only to wrestle back the urn from Australia but launch their bid to become the best team in the world. That's the view of the England seamer Graham Onions, who could make his Ashes debut as the eagerly-anticipated battle of leather and willow gets underway in Cardiff today.

And having experienced the Australians at first hand for England Lions last week, the Durham seamer had one word for his teammates: beatable. England were on the receiving end of a whitewash in the last series but, despite Australia arriving as the world's No 1 team, a tight contest is expected this time around. Led into an Ashes series by Andrew Strauss for the first time, Onions said England are eager to get under way against their oldest enemy.

"We've done our preparation and if you had asked the guys if they could have started the Test at the start of the week they would have said 'yes, we're excited, we're not nervous, we're ready to back ourselves.' "We're playing against the No 1 team in the world and we want that top spot. "If we give 100 per cent and stick together as a team then I think the Ashes will come back to England." Since Simon Jones' exploits in 2005, reverse swing has been the weapon bowlers have hoped to add to their arsenal during the English summer.

Brett Lee looked to have mastered the art during Australia's warm-up match against the Lions taking seven wickets in the match. Onions had a front-row seat and believes the tourists will miss the New South Wales quick who was ruled out of the first two Tests with a rib injury. "Brett Lee looked potentially back to his best," said Onions. "He was bowling 94mph and swinging it late back into the left and right-handers. Sometimes, as a batter, you can't do anything about that. Whoever comes in for him will be a good player, but they won't be able to do that."

Onions himself has reverse swung the ball for Durham this summer but he may have to wait a little longer for his first Ashes start. If, as expected, the pitch is dry at Sophia Gardens, England could pick Monty Panesar to partner the combative, and much-improved, Graeme Swann. Spin will play an important, if not decisive, role in the series and since the retirement of Shane Warne, Australia have been searching for a top-class replacement.

The man in possession is Nathan Hauritz, but the fact the Australians are tempted to rely on the part-time twirlers of batsmen Michael Clarke, Simon Katich and Marcus North is testament to Hauritz's lack of potency. The bowling great Glenn McGrath is one man to predict a whitewash to the visitors - a comment as predictable as the Abu Dhabi summer sunshine - but Onions added his voice to the chorus who believe Australia are still reeling from the loss of men such as McGrath, Warne and Adam Gilchrist.

"They are still a very good side and there's always that swagger about the Australians. But I just felt when we [England Lions] bowled against them that they were missing a lot of players - legends of their game - and I think it's a new era. And it's a new era that we can start to make it England's era. It's a fresh start. "Australia have got a bit of rebuilding to do. Playing against them last week I did feel that 'these guys can be beaten'. And there is nothing better than to walk onto a field feeling that."

pchayney@thenational.ae