CHESTER-LE-STREET (England): Durham seamer Graham Onions said Wednesday he would love nothing more than to revive his England career in front of his home crowd when the Ashes come to Chester-le-Street this week.
The 30-year-old played the last of his nine Tests, against the West Indies, over a year ago but has been included in England’s 13-man squad for the fourth Test of a five-match series starting at Durham’s headquarters on Friday.
Onions has struggled to hold down a place in a competitive England seam-bowling line-up but has been in excellent form this season, taking 47 first-class wickets at an average of just over 21 apiece.
Nevertheless, he is more aware than most of how hard it will be to force his way into an attack that have retained the Ashes after wins in the opening two Tests at Trent Bridge and Lord’s before Monday’s rain in Manchester helped them to a draw at Old Trafford.
“I’m champing at the bit and I’m excited,” Onions told a news conference.
“I feel ready, I’m delighted to be here, delighted to be part of the squad. If you’re in the squad then you’re up for selection, you’ve got a chance of playing.
“I was disappointed not to be involved in the squad for the last game, but to be here at Durham, where I’ve played all of my cricket and to be from the north-east, (I’m going) to be very proud to put that England shirt on.
“I feel as though I’ve played well for Durham this year and if the chance did come along I’ll be ready. I still feel a bit nervous, but they are excited nerves really.
Onions, born just some 10 miles from Chester-le-Street in Gateshead, added: “The prospect of playing Test match cricket again, and playing in front of your home crowd, it’s going to be fantastic if I was given the opportunity to play.”
Surrey fast bowler Chris Tremlett has also been added to the squad and England, having secured the Ashes and been kept in the field longer than any other first innings this series at Old Trafford, could yet to decide to rotate their attack.
“As a cricketer you want to play every game, being realistic you’re probably not going to be able to if you play all three formats.
“For someone like myself where the red ball is my forte I want to try and force my way into the side.
“It’s not easy, we’ve got a great crop of fast bowlers. Obviously with Tremlett and some of the young lads coming through as well, it’s a privilege and an honour to be part of the squad.”
England may have retained the Ashes but Onions was adamant there would be no slacking from the hosts during the remaining two Tests of the series.
“The rivalry between England and Australians will be huge. We want to win the two games, we want to perform as well as we can, we want to try and keep our standards high, try and win this series and this is a big game for us,” he said.
Meanwhile Australia middle-order batsman Steven Smith said the prospect of finishing the series all square at 2-2 was a major incentive for the tourists.
“Our plan is to level the series. It was a disappointing last day at Old Trafford, we were in the box seat.
“Our sole focus is to win this and level the series at The Oval.”
At Old Trafford, Smith made 89 before — in sight of a maiden Test hundred — he holed out off spinner Graeme Swann.
“It would be nice to get that first hundred, get it off my chest, get one and then hope I’ll be fine. I hope it’s not too far away.”
During the course of his innings, Smith shared a stand of 214 with Australia captain Michael Clarke, who went on to make a superb 187.
“I think getting near the hundred was a factor in playing the bad shot. Michael told me he doesn’t even think about a hundred — he thinks about 150 as his 100. It’s just a number (to him).”