England elect two spinners, but Graham Onions is hopeful he will make his mark on the 2009 Ashes series.
Patient Onions will have to wait for his chance
There are unlikely to be few more satisfying achievements on debut than getting your name on the honours board at Lord's. That was how the Durham seamer Graham Onions announced himself on the international scene during England's victory over the West Indies in May. And now, having secured himself the likely contender to make his mark on the Ashes when the England captain Andrew Strauss decides to play a fourth seamer during this series. Yesterday he, along with Tim Bresnan, was added to England's Performance Squad. It is quite a rise considering the level-headed bowler was overlooked for the winter tours of not only England, but also the England Lions tour to New Zealand. Onions said: "Getting called up to an Ashes squad is great, there's a lot of hype and publicity for me and as long as I can keep involved in the team I can improve as a cricketer and a person. "The whole season so far has been strange. Since not being involved in the squads in the winter, training and getting myself mentally prepared for the season ahead, and proving a few people wrong and trying to prove to myself that I can do it." But the bowler took the decision on the chin, put his head down, worked hard and is reaping the rewards. He is now the championship's leading wicket-taker and has impressed with his ability to bowl long spells as well as coping easily with back-to-back matches. The unassuming 26-year-old has the wicket to wicket bowling style with the ability to swing the older ball, but consistency is the watchword. "You can never expect to be in the England squad because one you get to that stage you are a really consistent performer. I'm getting to a stage in my career, but I have to remember this is just the start of my international career." Although taking nothing for granted, Onions is set to be a fixture in the England squads for the foreseeable future and he is fulsome of his praise of the captain Strauss and the team spirit in general - something that has been questioned in the past with the squad riven with cliques. "The spirit is brilliant, the team are going in the right direction, the team is very closely knit and that's also important that I need to keep myself involved because when you are in and out it can be a little bit tricky. The lads have been great. "From a reasonably young age I've been in the same squads as Matt Prior and Stuart Broad. I remember my first tour was to India and Bangladesh and three or four of the squad now were on that tour. "Getting called up to an Ashes squad is great, there's a lot of hype and publicity for me and as long as I can keep involved in the team I can improve as a cricketer and a person." The brisk bowler saw the Australians up close and personal just last week when the tourists took on England Lions at Worcester and believes they are beatable. His Durham teammate and previous Ashes winner Stephen Harmison impressed during a hostile spell that had the Australian wunderkind Phillip Hughes dismissed cheaply twice. And the experienced paceman was magnanimous after being overlooked for Onions. "Steve has been brilliant. He was one of the first people to phone me up and he said 'congratulations. If you need someone to talk to, I'm just at the end of the phone.' He's gone through a lot of good times and bad in his career." Harmison is famous, or infamous, for his homesickness for the north-east during England's world travels and the Gateshead-born Onions has a lot of sympathy. "It's a great job, but it can be really tricky at times. I'm away from my family and my girlfriend Emma quite a lot and it doesn't matter whether you're two hours away or twenty you're still not there. But to play for my country is something as a kid I was desperate to do." Onions is still finding it hard to believe that, having watched the remarkable series against Australia in the English summer of 2005 (for England the whitewash in 2006-7 is unsurprisingly referred to far less), he is now on the brink of being a part of it. While he may miss out on making his Ashes debut due to the dry nature of the pitch at Sophia Gardens it seems certain that he will feature in most prestigious of cricketing series. The day before the first Test, with England's training session over at 12.30pm, the players were free to relax, go the cinema, and prepare themselves for the match ahead. While the seamer may have to keep his powder dry for now, his chance will come and for the public the waiting is over.