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Inspirational Graham Onions steals limelight from Strauss

IT started with the focus on one captain’s search for form and ended with another finding his, but the abiding memory of a frustrating Lord’s day was the performance of Graham Onions.

Graham Onions
Graham Onions

IT started with the focus on one captain’s search for form and ended with another finding his, but the abiding memory of a frustrating Lord’s day was the performance of Graham Onions.

So great was the interest in Andrew Strauss it was a wonder there was no mass exodus from the Press box when the England skipper’s innings ended after two balls.

Even by then there were signs of another display to interest the national selectors brewing amongst the storms of thunder, lightning, rain and hail.

When Onions said last night he was “in a good place”, he was not referring to the 19th Century pavilion or the outfield which recovered so quickly after being whitened with a carpet of hail that nearly 40 overs were squeezed into day two of the County Championship game against Middlesex.

It is simply that the 29-year-old is bowling and even batting well.

The first half of the equation at least has not suddenly happened.

The man from Gateshead has been pacey and accurate ever since returning from a career-threatening stress fracture 53 weeks ago.

With Chris Tremlett and Stuart Broad looking increasingly fragile, he is pushing further up the queue when the Three Lions are back here next month.

“I’m probably around about fifth or sixth seamer,” Onions reflected. “I’ve just got to be ready.”

Onions bowled magnificently from both ends and right from the start. His first wicket came with the day’s second ball, and a three-and-a-half-hour rain delay did not stop him producing arguably his best delivery to claim Dawid Malan as a third victim.

Middlesex’s six-year exile in Division Two means Durham have not spent as much time at Lord’s as they might have liked, but Onions has good memories of it. He took 5-39 on his England debut here, against the West Indies in 2009, having won Durham’s first major trophy at Lord’s two years earlier.

“It’s just a special place to come and play,” he enthused. “Every time I come here I enjoy it.”

The second delivery of the match, just short of 24 hours after the toss, was perfect to an international-class batsman short on form, uprooting off stump after passing between Strauss’ bat and pad.

“It swung a little bit and nipped back. It was a pretty decent ball,” Onions recalled with outrageous modesty.

He struck again in his third over, Paul Collingwood taking a good catch after a beauty squared up Joe Denly.

When Sam Robson fell victim to the next ball – again in the slips, this time off Callum Thorp – Middlesex were 2-3. Malan led a mini-fightback but the only let-up was a few loose deliveries from Ben Stokes.

Mitchell Claydon replaced Onions and from his first ball the Riversiders took another good slip catch, Chris Rodgers held by Scott Borthwick. Malan added 55 with Neil Dexter, helped when an edge appeared to hit Borthwick rather than go to hand.

Dexter has temporarily handed the captaincy to Rogers to concentrate on his batting, and was rewarded with a first Championship 50 since May.

Changing ends, Onions was into his second spell when bad light and rain brought an early lunch.

He returned with a ball which swung into Malan, and had him caught behind.

Durham were retrieving the Stokes long-hop Dexter clattered when the umpires decided to take the bad light rather than an imminent soaking.

With so little achieved in two days, a positive outcome looks unlikely but Onions’ rocketing confidence has ensured Durham’s trip will not be a complete washout.

 

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