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Will Onions be picked for England tour
THERE will be much interest among Durham fans today about whether Graham Onions and Ben Stokes are to be included in the winter Ashes squad.
In order to make the trip Onions requires a sympathy vote for his hard work, perseverance and continuing excellence since his back operation, while Stokes needs the selectors to take a gamble on his exceptional all-round talent.
Even if they don't think he's quite ready for the heat of Ashes battle in Australia they should still take him for the experience because he has the potential to serve England well for the next ten years.
He would bring extra balance to the team by acting as the fourth seamer they haven't had in recent years, so that the only doubt is whether he is good enough to bat at six - or seven, if Matt Prior moved up one place.
It is easily forgotten that Stokes scored five County Championship centuries before he was 20, something which only Denis Compton had previously achieved. He has added only two in the last two seasons while his bowling has improved immeasurably, but anyone who saw his hundred at Scarborough last month would not doubt his ability.
England one-day boss Ashley Giles also offered the opinion that Stokes is one of the best fielders in the world after the one-day international series ended last week, so he is obviously at the forefront of the selectors' thoughts.
Onions presents a greater dilemma. After playing eight Tests he was becoming established before missing the 2010 season following his back operation. Since then he has been almost ever-present in England squads but has appeared in only one more Test, which is remembered as the one in which Tino Best scored 95.
On English pitches offering some seam movement Onions remains the most prolific wicket-taker in the county game, at least in division one.
But taller bowlers like Steve Finn, Chris Tremlett and Boyd Rankin are considered more likely to succeed on the bouncier Australian pitches, so if Onions made the trip it would only be as cover for James Anderson.
At 31, Onions knows the chance of a long Test career has gone, but after Durham's championship triumph last week he said: "I still have huge aspirations to play one more Test.
"I remember when I had my back injury I said I just wanted one more game. That happened and of course you want to be greedy, you want to play one more. But I am convinced that if I do get into that side I've got a chance of staying there.
"I will be on tenterhooks ahead of the Ashes squad announcement. I've got the chance to play in South Africa this winter, which would be good, but it would be fantastic to play for England in Australia."