GRAHAM Onions could miss Englands first Test of the summer after scans confirmed the back injury which forced his return from Bangladesh is more serious than first thought.
Onions went to see a specialist over the weekend and has not travelled with Durham to Abu Dhabi, where the reigning county champions will face the MCC in the annual English season curtain raiser.
Durhams director of cricket Geoff Cook is not confident the Gateshead fast bowler will be able to start the season with his county and he could face up to two months on the sidelines.
That would put a serious question mark over his place in the England squad for the return series against Bangladesh as he may not get a chance to prove his form and fitness before the team is selected for the First Test on May 27.
Graham Onions officially is available to play for Durham if he is fit, said Cook, who has brushed aside concerns about the break in tradition which means the game against the MCC will not be played at Lords for the first time.
He came back from Bangladesh with a back injury, which they initially thought was a minor complaint.
X-rays, though, have shown it is a bit more serious and he has gone for another set of scans. He may be out for a month, he may be out for a month or two.
We dont have any idea at the moment because we dont know how he is going to respond to treatment.
He is centrally contracted so he is in Englands hands, not ours. When he is ready he will be able to play for Durham, which is fantastic.
We have not been able to identify the exact cause of the problem.
He had another scan over the weekend and we are waiting for the results.
It is disappointing he probably wont be fit for the start of the season, especially for Graham as he has international aspirations.
I am sure it is also a concern for England because they were starting to pull a bowling group together.
With Liam Plunkett also carrying drinks for the England squad in Bangladesh and Mark Davies recuperating at home after an operation on his ankle, Durhams formidable seam attack will be depleted in Abu Dhabi.
Steve Harmison will make the trip, but Cook feels the MCC game will give an opportunity for Luke Evans to show he is ready to play in the County Championship. With this seasons batting line-up also yet to be determined, this is more than just a pre-season sunshine jaunt.
Cook added: It is an early opportunity for people to stake a claim to be involved at the start of the county season.
We are not quite sure what peoples availability is going to be like as Liam Plunkett may or may not be able to play in the first game and Graeme is struggling.
Mark Davies may also not be fit. There are opportunities there for people to take, two bowling places and two batting berths as Shivnarine Chanderpaul is not going to be there.
We will try a few different permutations in terms of one-day cricket and the game against the MCC will give us an invaluable run out before the season gets under way.
We want to get back into a cricketing mentality and make sure we are able to cope with four-day cricket with the first Championship game of the season two weeks later.