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Contrasting pair hope for similar fortunes

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Pranav Soneji | 13:27 UK time, Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Four years ago, a swing bowler from Yorkshire and a beanpole from Durham took the new ball at the start of an Ashes summer for England.

But while this May Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison failed to receive a phone call from England's selectors, two men cut from similar cloth found their mobiles buzzing with good news.

Barring a five-day downpour of biblical proportions in NW8, Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions will make their Test debuts against the West Indies at Lord's on Wednesday.

Bresnan is a hark back to yesteryear, an old-fashioned Yorkshire swinger with what former England captain Michael Atherton describes as a "hefty bowler's backside".

Onions is tall and possesses a lean physique, comfortable in his 6ft 2in frame, with a high bowling action and the ability to reach 90mph.

And just as Harmison and Hoggard are contrasting bowlers and characters, the same can be said of Bresnan and Onions.

Bresnan is one of those refreshingly uncomplicated cricketers from the "if it's there to 'it, 'it it" school, while Onions is more introspective, prone to throwing in the odd third-person reference.

A Pontefract upbringing probably has a large influence on Bresnan's no-nonsense approach.

Asked about his potential to swing the ball away from the right-hander at Lord's, the 24-year-old replied in a thick west Yorkshire accent: "S'pose conditions are suiting it."


Bresnan is one of those multi-dimensional cricketers admired by ex-England coach Duncan Fletcher, whose batting ability will buttress a worryingly long England tail.

Although he has three first-class centuries to his name, Bresnan dismissed comparisons between himself and Andrew Flintoff.

"I might develop into a Flintoff at one time or another, but I'm just happy with my role as a bowling all-rounder who bats lower down and gets runs when needed," he said.

Fletcher gave him his first taste of international cricket aged 21 in 2006, when the flashing blade of Sanath Jayasuriya ripped Bresnan's youthful confidence to shreds.

"It wasn't just me who got taken apart," Bresnan was keen to point out, despite being put away for six an over in a 5-0 one-day series mauling against Sri Lanka.

"He took everyone apart, Harmy, Kabir Ali, Saj [Mahmood], pretty much everyone.

"I think I was picked on potential rather than performance in 2006. Last year was the first year I thought I was ready for this, but didn't get a shout.

"I believe I am ready now - I would like to do my talking on the pitch."

Onions is a more complex character whose elevation has coincided with a period of personal introspection.

A heel injury restricted him to just five appearances for Durham last year, and he missed out on the championship-winning victory over Kent.

"I didn't travel (to Canterbury), which hurt me a lot," he said. "Even talking about it now...the lads say 'do you remember that game?' It gave me the kick to do the hard work."

A self-confessed hothead in his younger days, the Gateshead-born fast bowler acknowledged his unrefined aggression was affecting his bowling performances.

"Maybe I wasn't mentally strong enough," said Onions, the County Championship's leading wicket-taker this season with 15 at a very healthy average of 16.40.

"But there's a difference between being a hothead and being determined to get my goals and targets.

"I used to channel my aggression in the wrong direction. Now it seems to be going in the right direction.

"That aggression can be put in at the gym or bowling in the nets, not just at the batsman."

A verbal joust with Justin Langer in the championship match between Durham and Somerset last week perfectly encapsulated the new and improved Onions.

"I did have a couple of words with him, he had a couple of words back," said Onions.

"But I didn't lose my focus, whereas maybe a few years ago I would have lost control of where the ball was going."

That adjustment helped him to eight wickets at Taunton, including 6-31 on the day of his call-up as Somerset were dismissed for 69 on the best batting track in the country.

"As long as I keep the aggressive personality that I am, be Graham Onions, then I don't think there's any reason to change," he added.

Hoggard made his England debut against the West Indies at Lord's nine summers ago, collecting 0-49 despite his fellow seamers running amok and dismissing the tourists for 54.

And Harmison, like Hoggard, was dropped following his first Test appearance.

Both Bresnan and Onions have every reason to hope for better.


  • Comment number 1.

    It's asking a lot of two debutants to become Ashes bowlers off the back of only two Tests.

    4 years ago, Giles, Flintoff, Hoggard and Harmison were experienced bowlers, and SiJo had played more than a few Tests. We'd won series away in the Windies, and away in SA. Winning was a habit.

    Winning is not a habit for this current side. I think they are up against it, but we shall see.

  • Comment number 2.

    I'd imagine that Harmison will be back in the squad come the Ashes, which is probably right. Let him get some miles in his legs then pick him when he's playing well. If he doesn't convince this summer, then that's it. In the mean time this is a good time to pick some new players and see how they do.
    Let's not forget that Australia have been giving lots of players debuts in all forms of the game, so they are not that experienced either

  • Comment number 3.

    Realistically they are fighting for one place alongside Harmison who will be hoping to find his form with Durham.

    The Ashes will see Flintoff, Anderson, Broad + Bresnan/Onions/Harmison + Swann/Panesar as the five man bowling lineup.

  • Comment number 4.

    I would agree that it is time to move on from the same bowling attack that took the ashes. Trying out new bowlers in an important series such as this is the only way to prepare them for international cricket, and as they are the current form bowlers in county cricket, (or Onions is at least) then unless Harmison starts showing some extremely good form then I would stick with one of these two for the ashes.

  • Comment number 5.

    Who did Matthew Hoggard upset that he's gone so far off the radar? For me he is still, after the too-often-injured Flintoff, our most consistent Test Match bowler

  • Comment number 6.

    With Onions/Bresnan/Swann all capable batters, we for once have quite a strong tail which should enable us to reach 400 at least. Plus with the early summer conditions, i really can't see WI being able to match this, even if they are a much tougher outfit. Unfortunately without a front line strike bowler (In the mould of Harmison or Jones) i think we will struggle to take 20 wickets later on in the summer against a much better equiped Aussie team.

  • Comment number 7.

    Don't forget Sidearse, he will be back alongside Flintoff. Add in Anderson and Broad and that's a strong bowling attack. Bresnan and Onions will be tried but I think Onions will be the guy picked for the Ashes. Harmy has had his day, Flower does not rate him anymore and neither do I....not after Antigua and the WI series!!

    Rumour also has it that 1st Test in Cardiff will be designed for 2 Swann and Monty will play, aussies don't have any spinners?? So add in Fred, Anderson and Broad.....probably no place for Onions and Bresnan in Cardiff.

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm sorry I've seen Bresnan a few times and if that's the best we have as a Test bowler then we are far away from the likes of Australia and South Africa. We really lack quality young fast bowlers in this country at the moment who can consistently bowl good line and length, at a good pace and with a bit of movement. The ones who can always seem to get injured!

  • Comment number 9.

    Theres a few decent ones out there, Joseph of Kent is quick, as is Chambers of Essex. Plus Chris Woakes and Steven Finn are both tall, accurate and very promising bowlers.

  • Comment number 10.

    How many times do England have to drop Harmison only then to recall him for the next series? Clearly there has been little choice.Time to bring in players who hopefully will rise to thr occasion and not wilt under the pressure.

  • Comment number 11.

    Comment 5: Not sure how you can say that Hoggy is our most consistent Test bowler when he has not been selected for so long. Past tense might have been more appropriate. Would love it if he could make a comeback, but I think his new autobiography was a very deliberate bit of bridge-burning on his part.

    Watched Onions bowl against Durham last week and was very impressed. Obviously it was just one match, but the fact that he performed when he knew that everybody's eyes would be on him is quite encouraging. Hopefully bodes well for his Test debut.

    On the other hand, I'm pretty dismayed to read about him referring to himself in the third person. This is a habit practised by American sportsmen and one that certainly shouldn't be encouraged here. I like fast bowlers to have a bit of an ego, but I think that Sir Chris Hoy got it right when asked What does Chris Hoy think about Chris Hoy?':

    "Chris Hoy thinks that the day Chris Hoy refers to Chris Hoy in the third person is the day Chris Hoy disappears up his own backside." Quite.

  • Comment number 12.

    Harmsion and Hoggard should both be in the side. So should Flintoff when he's fit. Slot in Swann or Panesar and then add Sidebotham. The rest have to work hard for a nibble. Foster should be the keeper. Key the number three, and, possibly, the captain.

  • Comment number 13.

    If fit Mark Davies is not bad either.

  • Comment number 14.

    Great to see another 1-2 pace attack from the North in the team. Despite the occasional spin heros it's the pacemen who get the job done. I'm old enough to recall Truman and Statham, and I never felt more sure of vistory than when they were in the team. (Didn't always happen....) And Hoggard has been a constant gem, and Harmy a bloody wonder on those days.... Never regaled as the star, Hoggie did the job. And seeing that Yorky arse running up, you always knew something at least good was about to be delivered, and maybe that extra swing that nailed 'em.

  • Comment number 15.

    Let's be realistic about this. The ECB couldn't organise the proverbial p**s up in a gin factory. If they are seriously considering Bresnan and Onions for the Ashes why were they (or at least one of them) not taken to the West Indies? That way they would have gained experience, now they have one, possibly two, Tests to do so. Sidebottom was injured, Harmison past his sell by date (and will remain so), so they had ideal opportunity. Can't anyone in that organisation see further than one series at a time? That and the Sandford and Moores/Pietersen/Strauss/Flower stupidities make me shudder to think English cricket is in the hands of these nincompoops. Australia to win 3-1; we'll win the last Test, when all pressure is off. Oh, and Flintoff will play a very minor role, if any; he'll probably get injured turning for his second run of the series in the third Test, having taken nought for plenty in the first two but still being thought of as England's great white hope. Another brilliant ECB decision to allow him and the others to go to the IPL (where Twenty/20 captain Collingwood didn't even get a game!).

  • Comment number 16.

    Boyd Rankin, Woakes, Finn, Chambers, Harris-lots of potential there.
    I still have not given up on Plunkett & Mahmood.
    Mark Davies is class when fit. Even Murtagh and Kabir Ali shoudl be in with a shout.
    That is 10 bowlers-surely we can mould 1 or 2 into world class?

    I had high hopes for tremlett but it seems he has gone off the radar.

  • Comment number 17.

    Well "ABritinCanada" you just re-iterated everything I (a Brit in USA) have been saying for years.
    To call our selectors myopic is an insult to myopic people!
    I am a big fan of Key but his time is gone. If Foster is held in such high regard, why wasn't he featured in the West Indies? Now people are saying Bresnan is the new Flintoff, well that isn't fair to a guy with a lot to prove and no time to prove it.
    Why must our selectors give players with huge potential one or at most two matches to prove themselves and then, if they fail, leave them in the wilderness for years?
    Let's look at how the world's best Aussies do it. People must perform in their equivalent of county matches, consistently, before they are given a chance in the big matches. Also their age isn't an issue, if the talent is there.
    I hate to sound like I have none of my own ideas but it is hard to argue with anything ABritinCanada says, except the result of the Ashes series.
    I just cannot see England winning one test, even the last, unimportant test. The Aussies are just too strong, too well organized and too professional. They are almost the exact opposite of the England team.
    Having a lot of heart is just not enough. Barring a miracle we will get our you-know-whats handed to us this summer.
    Good luck to the England team, they will need all they can get.
    Australia 4-0 England, my prediction. Let's all pray for a very, very wet summer!!

  • Comment number 18.

    "Onions is a more complex character whose elevation has coincided with a period of personal introspection."

    Are you suggesting that Onions has many layers???!

    I agree with many commentators that this is not the side that will play in Cardiff, but I also think that Bell and Harmison lack the application desired at international level and the latter should never be allowed back, whereas Bell is having to learn the hard way.

    Poor old Hoggy, left out in the cold and not given an explanation - and sixth on our all time wicket takers list. Are England fans too sentimental about the Hogster to see that he is burned out or are the selectors missing the obvious senior option for our weak attack? I think he has to be worth a go.

    Mark Davies of Durham; check out his record on, its incredible that he is mentioned so often on here but never gets beyond the Lions side...i suspect the words right arm medium are the reason...

  • Comment number 19.

    Aye, the "plucky" Brits will put up some kind of a show during the Ashes, and will be "unlucky" not to have come away with something. The ECB will dust the cobwebs off another Lord Somethingorother, who will duly publish his deliberations which the ECB will studiously ignore. Then it's orf to Australia with a "work in progress" team and.........God I hope I'm wrong!!

  • Comment number 20.

    'A verbal joust with Justin Langer in the championship match between Durham and Somerset last week perfectly encapsulated the new and improved Onions. "I did have a couple of words with him, he had a couple of words back".

    Not to be encouraged. You can bet JL filed a full report to Tim Nielson.

  • Comment number 21.

    Mark Davies is injury prone and after a successful tour of NZ with the Lions squad he is again injured otherwise I do think he could have been selected this time around.

  • Comment number 22.

    Are we now in the same position football found itself with cricketers seeking large payments.The recent IPL has shown players looking to take the pot of gold and risking permanent damage.What is this doing to the game.I believe players should be paid well and provided with opportunity however at what point do the authorities need to step in?

  • Comment number 23.

    Flower comments that the IPL players are underprepared. Yet KP was picked for the test being doubly underprepared - he scored no significant runs (did he score any?) in the IPL. Result - duck vs West Indies. KP needs a rest from the second test. Get him back to Hampshire and get some runs. We cannot pick for the ashes on reputation alone, and KP should be treated in the same way as Michael Vaughan in this respect.

  • Comment number 24.

    I see your point about not taking either Onions or Bresnan to the West Indies - neither player was involved with the England Lions winter tour either. But, as a consequence, both players had long periods away from cricket during the winter. Onions said he had did not bowl a single ball between the end of the season and Christmas, while Bresnan spent a lot of his time in the gym working on his fitness and strength. That time has obviously been well spent, judging by early season form. Maybe Adil Rashid wishes he had done something similar, rather than trotting around various Caribbean islands doing not very much. Actually, maybe not...

    I agree with pprozac, England's fast bowling ranks are looking quite healthy at the moment. Steve Finn of Middlesex is one player I believe will be an England player in the very near future. He's tall, quick and has the ability to move the ball late, while Chris Woakes has a classic outswinger's action which caused the West Indies all sorts of problems against the Lions last week.

  • Comment number 25.

    Can't believe that Geoff Boycott was so insensitive as to come out with the disparaging remarks he recently made about England's new bowlers....just what does he think that hearing something like that on the eve of a test debut will do to the confidence of Bresnan and Onions? If that's his genuine opinion, fine; but there are better times and places to express it. As for his remarks about captaincy: I've read enough from others who played under Boycott as England captain to know that he's in a bit of a glass house on this issue.


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