Thoughts on the Ashes: Graham Onions, part 2
Graham Onions backs England to win
One of Lancashire’s quartet of Ashes winners Graham Onions is backing England to succeed in Australia during the next couple of months.
Onions believes Joe Root’s side will win the series 2-1, although key to putting the Aussies under pressure is avoiding defeat in this week’s first Test at the Gabba in Brisbane.
Nicknamed the Gabbatoir by the locals, you can see why.
The hosts have won 20 of their last 27 Test Matches there dating backing to the start of 1989, drawing the other seven.
That kind of statistic has led Onions to urge England against being too expansive from Thursday (the build-up starts at 11pm on Wednesday evening on BT Sport, with the first ball an hour later).
The experienced former Durham seamer said: “I expect England will be thinking ‘get in the series, prove to people we’re good enough’ - to come out with a good solid draw, score lots of runs and really put their foot down to say ‘we’re here, we’re going to make it hard for you’.
“It’s happened in the past, but if they lose that first game and are under pressure, people will start to think that it’s going to be tough and get on their backs.”
Onions was an Ashes winner on home soil in 2009, playing three Tests and returning 10 wickets.
In all, his Test career brought him 32 wickets from nine appearances.
“The Ashes is the biggest series, no doubt,” said the 35-year-old new Red Rose recruit, who joins Jimmy Anderson, Jos Buttler and Simon Kerrigan in scooping an Ashes winning medal.
“Nothing will take away from my debut. That was a really important game (he took seven wickets against the West Indies at Lord’s earlier that summer).
“But to be given a chance to play against the bitter rivals, there’s nothing better from a series point of view.
“I played a few games. I would have liked to play all five, but it wasn't to be.
“It was great to win the series, and it was actually a really special time in my life as well. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“There’s been a lot of talk recently about how it can make or break a player. If you shine in an Ashes series, you know everyone around the world will generally be watching.”
WATCH: Graham Onions on what it's like to play in The Ashes
England drew their final warm-up game against a Cricket Australia XI at Townsville last week, with Mark Stoneman scoring their first century on tour.
Stoneman will open the batting with Alastair Cook in this series, hoping to add to his 120 runs from three summer Tests against the West Indies, including one fifty.
And Onions is confident his former Durham team-mate can shine.
“You hear a lot of talk about mindset and the mental edge you need to have in international cricket in any form of the game, not just Test Matches,” he said. “I think Mark’s got that.
“People have been calling for him to play for some time, with others getting in ahead of him and not nailing it down. I believe he’s spent that extra two years really improving his game. He’s such a fine player.
“He will be tested in every department, including by the crowd. But he will be able to cope with it.
“I think he will be good for Alastair Cook because he’s naturally aggressive.
“Especially in the third innings of games, he comes out and is a bit more positive. He likes to take the attack when the seamers are slightly fatigued.”
Although, as Onions says, Stoneman will be tested by the home crowds around Australia, the Surrey man is no stranger to the Aussie way of life as his partner is a Sydney girl.
Onions went on: “He’ll take all that kind of thing from the crowds on board and think it’s quite funny. He’s that type of character.
“His partner Serene, they’ve been going back and forward from England to Sydney for the last three or four years, and he’s loved it.
“He’s played a bit of club cricket over there, so he’s no stranger to all that kind of thing. It may just relax him.”
Onions has also played with the opposition’s opener David Warner, who spent a season playing Twenty20 cricket with Durham in 2009.
He said: “I carried a lot of drinks when he was involved. He was young and confident and could hit the ball a long way. He’s not really changed.
“He’s very confident in his ability, and he is a serious threat.
“You talk about Mark Stoneman and playing aggressively - if Warner has a good series, Australia will be thinking they are in the box seat.”
Onions added: “I’m going to go 2-1 to England.
“I really do hope that Mason Crane comes in and does a great job because there will be at least two of the Tests that spin. Fingers crossed!”
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