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Interviews

Graham Onions: The Durham Destroyer

In a summer where bowlers all over the country hit their straps like never before, one man – and one performance – stood head and shoulders above the rest. Ed Davis spoke to Graham Onions about his magical display at Trent Bridge back in August. 

Battered and bruised after South Africa’s mammoth win at The Oval and the KP saga that spilled out of Headingley, England named a 13-man squad for the third Test at Lord’s. Included in the party was Graham Onions, the leading seamer in the Championship’s first division, with many in the media arguing that he deserved a crack at the tourists’ in-form batting line-up. However, it wasn’t to be – the selectors elected to go with Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn for the final Test of the summer, leaving Onions free to turn out for Durham in the Championship…

“I knew I wasn’t playing in the Test at breakfast, but you have to stick around till after the toss just in case someone picks up an injury in the warm-up. Everyone made it through unscathed, so I jumped in the car and headed up the motorway to Trent Bridge to join in the game against Notts.

“Being so close to playing and then missing out is obviously hugely frustrating. I’ve played at Lord’s a few times before and loved every second of it, and I wanted the chance to test myself against the best in the world. But I fully understood the decision, and in any case I’ve always felt that being able to play for Durham is a privilege, it’s not something that should ever be looked at as a disappointment.”

Notts had won the toss the previous day and invited Durham to bat. By lunch on day two, the visitors had battled their way to 194 all out, having previously agreed with their hosts that should Onions be made available he’d replace Mitchell Claydon in their line-up…

“I actually had a decent run up the M1 – for about the first time ever in my life – but I still ended up getting to the ground at lunch. I got out of the car stiff as anything so I decided to skip lunch and do my best to loosen up. Colly [Durham skipper Paul Collingwood] asked me if I wanted to ease myself in, but I told him “No, I’m up for this. Give me the new ball, let me lead the attack.

“I didn’t start the first over that well, actually, but then my last ball kept low on Alex Hales, he was given out lbw and I was off. Bowling’s a lot about rhythm, once you find it everything becomes automatic and you can concentrate on setting the batsman up, exploiting the conditions and all that. After that wicket I felt good and ready to go to work.”

Further wickets followed – Michael Lumb was pinned in front, Adam Voges was trimmed up by an inducking jaffa, Riki Wessels was comprehensively bowled, while Chris Read – Notts’ middle order rock – nicked off first ball. A determined fightback from Paul Franks (53) and Steve Mullaney (23) slowed Durham’s progress, but Gateshead’s finest returned after a quick blow to claim them both lbw. After 35 overs, Notts were 132-7…   

“It was one of those spells where whenever I felt tired – like I might be coming to the end of my spell – I would pick up a wicket, feel that lift and manage to keep going. I guess it first crossed my mind that I might be in with a shout at taking all 10 when the seventh wicket went down. I was in the team when Ottis Gibson took all 10 [against Hampshire in 2007] and I remember looking at him as he celebrated like a madman and thinking how I wouldn’t mind knowing what that feels like.”

Onions wasn’t alone in realising that he was in with a shout of joining his teammate in cricket’s record books…

“By the time we got them eight down I was starving and a bit tired. Colly decided he wanted to look after me in the field so I could have a breather and keep going for all 10, but it was one of those games when the ball kept on following me. He ended up moving me to square leg while Scotty Borthwick was bowling to try and get me out of the firing line, the thinking being I wouldn’t see much of the ball there with a leggie bowling. But somehow I still ended up diving around like a madman – Colly actually asked me if I wanted to switch but I told him I was happy enough.

“What happened next was over in a flash, really. [Luke Fletcher] dug one out and the ball ended up coming to me as they tried to run a single. The rest was just autopilot, instinct, what you practise again and again in training – I just picked the ball up and had a shy at the stumps at the non-striker’s end, and for once I hit them, this time of all times! Immediately afterwards I was just happy to get the wicket, but some of the lads couldn’t believe it and were shouting “What are you doing?” and all that. But I’d do it again in an instant – you’ve got to haven’t you?”

The run out ended Onions’ chances of bagging all 10, but there was still time for him to clean up Andy Carter to record figures of 9-67 and help propel Durham to a 16-run victory and eventual Championship safety…

“I’m not going to lie, it would have been great to get 10-fer and it would be incredible – unbelievable even – if the chance came round again, but I’m pretty proud of nine-fer and a run out, I’m not actually sure if it’s been done in first-class cricket before, at the end of the day it’s a pretty good stat isn’t it? Might end up being an answer in a pub quiz one day…”

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