Thoughts on the Ashes: Graham Onions
Graham Onions shares his thoughts on the Ashes down under
Lancashire’s Graham Onions believes England’s two warm-up games against a Cricket Australia XI will be key to a narrow Ashes victory.
Onions is backing Joe Root’s men to retain the urn during the next couple of months in a tense battle Down Under.
The first Test is just over a fortnight away in Brisbane, starting on November 23.
Beforehand, England tackle two four-day games in Adelaide from Wednesday and then Townsville next week.
The Adelaide Oval clash is to be played under lights with the pink ball in preparation for the third Test under the same conditions there next month.
“These two games are very important,” said Onions, an Ashes winner on home soil in 2009.
“Of course it’s important that your senior lads get time at the crease, and the younger lads will be desperate to prove themselves.
“James Vince looks like he will bat at number three, so it would be good for him to spend a long time in the middle.
“In the past, it would be a case of just acclimatising, getting a few overs in, turning your arm over. But I honestly think times have changed now.
“It wouldn't look good and would give Australia a lot of confidence if England didn't perform well and didn’t get any kind of result along the way.”
England regained the urn with victory at home in 2015, and Onions is confident they will not give it up to an Australian side who are the bookmakers’ favourites this time around.
“I’m going to say it’s a genuine 50/50,” he said. “I actually think England will win, but I think it’s so close. I say that because of the Australian bowling.
“James Pattinson is out injured, and Josh Hazlewood has come out in the press and said he’s a little bit undercooked and needs to get some rounds of cricket in.
“I actually don't think that was a particularly good thing for him to say.
“If anything happens to Pat Cummins or, especially, Mitchell Starc, I think their bowling set-up will be slightly concerned.
“From our point of view, without Ben Stokes being in that batting line-up, they are potentially going to have to go with an extra batter or with Mason Crane. That might give them the luxury of an extra spinner.
“I think it’s exciting. I don't think England’s side is a concern even though people will think it’s weakened without Ben being in that middle order.
“Someone like Chris Woakes can fill his boots. Ben’s responsibility has really been with the bat with the luxury of 10-15 overs per day.
“Woakes can come in and bowl 20-25 overs in a day and bat lower down.
“The roles are reversed with those two, but Woakes has a healthy average in first-class and Test cricket with the bat, and his bowling has improved massively in the last few years.
“They’ve also got Craig Overton as well, and the strength of the squad is massively important. You need everybody, you really do.”
England drew their opening warm-up game in Perth, a two-day clash with a young Western Australia Cricket Association XI on Saturday and Sunday.
England made 349-6 on the first day before the hosts responded with 342 all out.
Jimmy Anderson returned 4-27 from 13 overs.
Onions added: “He’s without a doubt England’s best ever bowler and the best around the world.
“He will probably be thinking it’s his last series in Australia.
“If he can stay fit and put in performances, hopefully get this Kookaburra ball swinging, he’s going to be a serious handful for them.
“That day/night Test at Adelaide should suit him.”
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