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Windies batsmen get first taste of Onions

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Oliver Brett | 19:01 UK time, Thursday, 7 May 2009

The first ball he faced in Test cricket crashed into his stumps - and the first delivery he bowled an hour later was smashed for four.

So it was that Graham Onions quickly learned about the ups and downs - or downs and ups in his case - of Test cricket. And yet if he was to wander into a newsagent on Friday morning, he would have every reason to smile.

With a surname that is pure gold for a headline writer, he would be able to laugh at the inevitable puns that will be displayed - because Onions recovered from a most inauspicious entry into the Test arena by taking five West Indies wickets.

And though Graeme Swann arguably had a bigger impact on the course of the match on day two at Lord's, Onions was a lot more than a bit-part player.

There may come a time, on a flatter wicket much later in the season, and against a determined Australian batting line-up, that Test cricket seems a less joyful prospect - and those headlines might look a little bit silly.

But right now, all that plugging away for Durham for the last five years - not to mention the marathon journeys to many away games - have produced a memorable initial return at the highest level.

It all began with a most uncertain opening burst from the 26-year-old.

Graham Onions celebrates as Jerome Taylor marches off

Brought on for the 15th over of the innings, Onions ran up to bowl a none-too-fast short-pitched ball which Devon Smith gleefully pulled for four.

His opening over cost nine runs, he was not swinging the ball nearly as much as either Stuart Broad or James Anderson - and he looked ever-so-slightly red-faced and flustered.

He began his second over in such a rush that the slips had barely taken position as he began running in from the Nursery End. Smith helped himself to another boundary, and the ball swung even less.

The third over was a bit more impressive as he beat Lendl Simmons with one that just swung away a fraction and then seamed one back into the Trinidadian.

When he next bowled after tea, Simmons took a single, leaving Brendan Nash, who had faced just four balls from Swann, on strike.

Andrew Strauss ran all the way from first slip for a quick word with Onions, who sent down a horrid ball short and wide of the off-stump, enabling Nash to get off the mark with the easiest of cut shots for four.

Then things began to happen in the fifth over. Simmons was beaten outside off-stump by one that swung and seamed away, and then also narrowly avoided hitting a ball which bounced alarmingly.

At the end of it, three England players went up and patted Onions' back, while Kevin Pietersen added a mini neck-massage for good measure.

The magic was just round the corner. Simmons edged the first ball of the sixth over, a proper ball which reared and left the right-hander, to slip, and two balls later there was a bonus as Jerome Taylor under-edged a leg-side delivery to the wicketkeeper.

With a rush of confidence he told mid-on to move into leg-slip without even consulting the skipper - and continued to torment the opposition.

Sulieman Benn was the next victim with the last ball of the same over - edging into a hungry slip cordon who knew they were going to be in business now Onions had found his rhythm.

Where earlier in his spell he had decelerated worryingly on his approach to the stumps, now every aspect of his run-up was as smoothly oiled as a sunbathed blonde.

Onions made it four wickets seven balls when Denesh Ramdin was lbw, the bowler falling onto his backside as he swivelled to appeal, and he also picked up the final wicket to earn his spot on the fabled Lord's honours board.

The question now, inevitably, is this: will this be a flash-in-the-pan effort or can Onions make something more of his debut?

Ed Giddins took 5-15 against Zimbabwe at Lord's in 2000 in only his second appearance, but only played two further Tests.

Richard Johnson's 6-33 against the same opposition (albeit with weaker personnel) three years later at Chester-le-Street also presaged a truncated career - though in his case injuries were the issue.

And also in 2003, James Kirtley helped win a Test against a fine South African side with 6-34 on an admittedly horrible wicket at Trent Bridge - but he only played three more Tests.

It is likely that at least one of Andrew Flintoff or Ryan Sidebottom will be fit and firing by the time the Ashes gets under way in July, but Onions may already have done enough to earn a chance at some point in the game's most historic series..

So, is he good enough to succeed against Australia? It's impossible to say for certain, but he is surely experienced enough, being the same age as Anderson, and four years older than Broad.

However, he did have an awful lot in his favour on Thursday, and of the five batsmen he dismissed the best was Simmons, who had only played one Test prior to this one.

Perhaps the best aspect of all was that Onions did not get caught up in the moment too much himself - he was realistic enough to say afterwards that any other bowler of the five at England's disposal could have ended up with a five-wicket haul.

Geoffrey Boycott, while commending Onions both on the quality of the delivery that removed Simmons and his action, saying "it looks easy for him to bowl", added a mischievous final comment on Radio 5 Live.

"Years later people might look at the honours board and say: 'Onions? Who's he?' "

It's now up to Onions himself, perhaps with a bit of help from England's selectors, to make sure they don't.


  • Comment number 1.

    Congrats to Graham Onions on a memorable start to his Test career. The damp, cold conditions were certainly not cricket weather for the boys from the lands of eternal summers, and Onions and others fully exploited that. Well done England!

    The West Indians, in some rueful ways, helped the English bowlers by not setting a smarter batting order.


    Practicality, it would seem, is a key ingredient lacking in West Indies management plan when it comes to setting the batting lineup so as to garner the most of their batsmen in regard to their respective ability, temperament and vulnerability!

    Why on earth is Chris Gayle opening? Its absurd! His impulsivity and unpredictability render him extremely vulnerable against the shiny new ball, as was explicitly evidenced today. Realistically, hed do both himself and the West Indies a great service by batting at number three. There are others batting out of position:

    This is how the batting order should look like based on the team selected, in my view:

    Brendan Nash
    Devon Smith
    Chris Gayle
    Shiv Chanderpaul
    Lendl Simmons
    Ramnaresh Sarwan
    Denesh Ramdin
    Sulieman Benn
    Jerome Taylor
    Fidel Edwards
    Lionel Baker.

  • Comment number 2.

    So, you'd suggest the best batsman comes in at no.6?

  • Comment number 3.

    Swan song and spring onions! Not exactly a Caribbean environment but didn't these guys beat us quite recently? Onions seemed to get more 'off the pitch' than anyone else and has a simple action - maybe he could be a replacement for my hero of 2005 Simon Jones who seems destined not to return anytime soon sadly. And Swan's batting was glorious. Maybe we could have an all-rounder who is not a fast bowler for once? I'm not sure Freddie qualifies as a batter these days but obviously his bowling is world class.

    Anyone else wondering about KP's batting just now?

    Not a new dawn by any means yet, but perhaps the sky is beginning to lighten slightly in the east?

  • Comment number 4.


    This is England, not the Caribbean.

    Sarwan, if you recall, struggled badly in NZ earlier in the year under similar conditions. At no. 6, he could stabilise the innings in the event of a collapse! As you have seem, both he and Gayle are back in the pavilion, warming benches. Strategically, Sarwan could have been saved for tomorrow.


  • Comment number 5.

    we shouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves, yes he bowled a terrific spell today, and picking up a 5for on debut is top stuff. However he need to keep the form going, its too much too soon to say we have found Steve Harmison's replacement, Onions has a long way to go, but he took his first steps today and memorable ones at that. Perfect way to cap off this test match would be with Bresnan getting some wickets aswell.

  • Comment number 6.

    On chris gayle, he can tear attacks apart, there are not many players that can do that at the top of the order, also i cannot see him batting lower down the order. Also shivarine Chanderpaul being the west indies best batsman should have the most valuable spot at number 3 and the second best batsman in the west indies team, Ramnaresh Sarwan should have another vailuable spot in number 4.

    Denish randim, is also normaly very efficient with the tail enders. Lets not forget the tail enders that saved them in a couple test matches in west indies.

    You could also think about swaping Devon smith, with Lendl Simmons or Brendan Nash at the top of the order for more stability.

    John Dyson also with abit of hard work could make Jerome Taylor an all rounder, just like young Stuart Broad is being made into.

    Chris Gayle
    Devon Smith
    Shiv Chanderpaul
    Ramnaresh Sarwan
    Lendl Simmons
    Brendan Nash
    Denesh Ramdin
    Jerome Taylor
    Sulieman Benn
    Fidel Edwards
    Lionel Baker.

    Cheers, josh.

  • Comment number 7.

    The one aspect that disappointed me with England today was Swann being taken off when bowling well. He took Nash's wicket with the last ball of his fifth over and all his wickets were left handers. He was getting good turn off the wicket and the West Indies still had two left handers in Benn and Baker to come. Strauss brought Broad back and I felt he missed a trick there. Spin bowlers can clean up the tail just as well as quick bowlers. It seemed a strange stereotype to revert to after we'd all been surprised by Swann taking the new ball.

    All in, a fine day for England and a fairly shocking one for the West Indies, Fidel Edwards excluded. It's so good to see him bowling well and getting reward, for he was the standout seamer for the West Indies in the last series and had no luck at all. Watching a genuinely quick man, perhaps the quickest in the world right now given that Lee is in recovery and Akhtar's fitness looks questionable every time I've seen him bowl, is a wonderful thing.

  • Comment number 8.

    I can't believe the comments on here which basically advocate an overhaul of the Windies batting line-up. A little premature or what?! Did this same side not just beat England in the last series?

    John Dyson may have trouble with DL charts; but surely even he is not crazy enough to tear up his strategy over a bad day at the office. That kind of kneejerk reaction is exactly what's cost England over much of the past two decades, the Fletcher era aside.

  • Comment number 9.

    Very pleased with Onions (and Swanny and Ravi too, of course), and cautiously optimistic about the future of the England cricket team, for the first time in a while!

    Plus this is Oliver Brett's best piece for ages, so lots of reasons to smile!


  • Comment number 10.

    For those who refer to what West Indies did recently in the Caribbean, you do not, I am afraid, fully undertand the nuances of cricket.

    The playing conditions are quite different in England than they are in the Caribbean. Gayle may get away with his flash-and-dash style in tropical heat, but not likely in damp, cold, overcast conditions, as was clearly obvious yesterday.

    For those who have been following my commentaries here and elsewhere, I predicted the same thing is likely to happen well before West Indies actually batted. There is no "kneejerk" reaction here, simply prudent observation.

    There needs to be some common sense applied here if West Indies are to muster any measure of success in England. They are simply unable and ill-prepared to be the best they can under prevailing circumstances.

  • Comment number 11.

    Great listening yesterday to and from Lincoln. TMS wanted headlines concerning Onions Debut of a five wicket haul. The one that came to me that I could not send as I was driving was, "Onions makes West Indians' eyes water." Apologies if someone else beat me to it.

  • Comment number 12.

    Yes Andy, I wondered about that too. And for a few overs the batsmen got some relatively easy runs that could have proved crucial.

    Seeing what came later, I think that Andrew Strauss' decision to open with Graeme Swann was proved right: it could have paid-off big time. And when it didn't come off at once, he went back to Plan B quickly, without being stubborn. Plenty of good captaincy in the field from Andrew Strauss.

  • Comment number 13.

    "as smoothly oiled as a sunbathed blonde"!?

    Otherwise a good read.

  • Comment number 14.

    I can't remember seeing an England cricketer, especially a fast-bowler, look as composed on Test debut as Graeme Onions did yesterday. It's the kind of thing you normally get from Australians, and that can only be a good thing for England. I'm also impressed with how organised he looks in both his run-up and his action; his follow-through reminds me very much of Dale Steyn (as did the pace he generated yesterday.) It's obviously much too early to properly assess him as a test player; and it would be unfair to expect him, without at least a year's test cricket behind him, to be a key figure in the forthcoming Ashes series; but if he can keep fit and keep bowling as he did yesterday, England are going to do very well over the next five or six years. And the return to form of Harmison would not be a necessity, but a bonus!!

  • Comment number 15.

    congrats to onions on his great test debut. we should be cautious not to over laud the performance against a disinterested Windies side whose skipper only arrived last week. Dropped catches in the field, along with the difficult conditions (or cold) meant the West Indies were pretty ordinary at best.

    It is a publicists' dream to have someone like Onions in the squad as it makes for fantastic food related puns...
    "Onions rings loudly for another leg before..."
    "Onions leaves sour taste in Windies top order"
    "Onions puts Windies in a chutney?

    The red-tops are bound to run out of them soon.

  • Comment number 16.

    What sort of paces did he generate yesterday? Our key to the bowling attack in 2005 is that we had 3 bowlers (Harmison, Jones and Flintoff) that regulary kept the ball up at 90 mph, also does he have the ability to reverse swing it which is the key when you dont have convential swing conditions. Was also impressed with Broad and Anderson yesterday who seemed to be keeping the speeds up regulary at 88 - 90 mph.

    As for Gayle he deserves to be out cheaply for his distinct lack of preparation for this test, he clearly hasnt taken it that seriously and would rather be in the IPL, from their body language and their woeful fielding looks like most of his team feel the same.

  • Comment number 17.

    Well donions, Graham. However Oliver makes well the points about Giddins and co. Let's hope Onions sticks around a bit longer.

    This is a good piece Oliver. Has anyone else read Agnew's column? What a waste of internet. There's no insight or opinion there, he's just listed out some things that happened at the cricket yesterday. And you can't even comment on his column any more, which used to be one of the best discussions. Now it's completely pointless. As a licence fee payer, may I suggest you stop wasting our money paying him to produce such bland dross?

  • Comment number 18.

    Well donions?? Really??

  • Comment number 19.


    All three England seamers topped 90mph at some point yesterday, though were more generally operating in the high 80s. There was a bit of surprise actually that Onions was on a par with Anderson and Broad for pace.

    By the way, Ed Giddins has had quite a fascinating career post-cricket. He was (maybe still is?) a professional poker player for a bit and has also appeared in a bizarre TV reality show called "Arrange Me a Marriage". I believe he is now a poker analyst. More anecdotes needed!"

  • Comment number 20.

    Let's not get carried away - English cricket is full of nippy seamers who look like World beaters in May. Without taking away from the achievements of L'oignon, it's nothing that the likes of Wagg, Masters, Kabir Ali and Shreck to name but four wouldn't have been capable of. Just look at what Chris Woakes managed against the West Indies for the Lions the other day...

    An excellent start, but let's see how he fairs when the Aussies are 300-1 on a hot and dry August afternoon...

  • Comment number 21.

    Well pointed out that others have had tremendous starts but then faded away quickly. I can easily think of some recent bowlers that have 'lunched out' on just one or two top Test performances in the past with a lot more mediocre stuff brushed under the carpet.

    But best wishes for Onions. Hope he can achieve highly in his career and not go down that path.

  • Comment number 22.

    Well- with a name like Onions, he is unlikely to be forgotten quickly.
    BTW, why is the BBC not covering the IPL? It's strange that such a big tourney gets not a single mention.

  • Comment number 23.

    I have to take this opportunity of expressing my pleasure at the inclusion of 'Tuffers' as part of the commentary team. What a breath of fresh air, this is not to say the original team members aren't valuable, but he really is a natural and contributes greatly to the experience of listening to cricket speak. Long may his contract run, don't let him go.

  • Comment number 24.

    Hate to break it to you, Splendid Sparrow, but "those who have been following [your] commentaries [comments?] here and elsewhere" may not quite amount to a full house at Lords. Maybe not even to a full breakfast table at your house.
    Good point by Oliver Brett re. Onions - welcome though those 5 wickets were, Swann probably made a bigger difference to the match yesterday.

  • Comment number 25.

    Re comment 17 above, I concur. If I wanted to know what happened in the game, I would have watched it, or read one of the poorly written summaries that the BBC puts on its Sports pages. But when I turn to Aggers, Im expecting comment, Im expecting insight, Im expecting the ability to see the wood from the trees. Much like the West Indian batsmen, he was having an off day with his editorial yesterday. He was probably more irked by the credit crunch hitting the biscuit provisions in the commentary box to worry about making any kind of relevant comment on this rather ordinary match. Aggers - you used to be an Allan Donald commentator swift and sharp. Now youre reverting to medium pace dross.

  • Comment number 26.

    Have the cricket admin 'TRODDEN ON THEIR OWN WICKET'
    Why start a 'Test Match' on a Wednesday, chances are it will all be all over by Friday.......18,000 tickets sold for Saterday..........I rest my case!!!

    Shane Warne moaning about playing 1st Test at Cardif and saying it should be at Lords, whats he on...always Lords Test was the second Test, earlyish June. Tell him to go home.

    Incidently congratulations England

    ....ref Graham Onions (WELL PLAYED)

    Talk on TMS ref names etc

    I played Hockey for 'MAORI CLUB' for 30 odd yrs, during late 60's we had a full back line up as follows.


    Lft Back TONY ONIONS

    Unfortunatky Tony is now deceased, I dont know what happened to George.

    MAORI CLUB (unfortunatly now extinct)

    Be interested if anyone remembers Cricket at this wonderful place, used to play NZ tourists at begining of their tour....look up WISDEN 1958....

  • Comment number 27.

    How come England could not see Onions before? A package of joy. And Bopara! What reluctance the England selectors indulged in before letting in a guy who wins them the match with just one innings!

  • Comment number 28.

    Fidel Edwards will rock England next match.

  • Comment number 29.

    Negotiating Onions has not been easy at Lord's. England spinners and pacemen have given a good start to their side. Centurion Ravi, virtuous Prior, allrounder Swann and experienced Cook have all collected useful runs. Spinner Swann and pace duo of Broad and Anderson bowled well. Ramadhin and Nash have stuck early form. Best wishes to the other players from both sides.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 30.

    "Cutting Onions brings Windies to tears"

    "Different gravy from Onions"


  • Comment number 31.

    Well done England Victory was well deserved.
    Just wonder if like WI England will now pick 9 batsmen and prepare a super batsman friendly wicket ideal for a boring draw?
    I would bet not, another lesson for the WI to learn.


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