Cow Corner

England’s forgotten men take centre stage

Graham Onions and Steven Finn

Okay, so the general public had not entirely forgotten Steven Finn or Graham Onions, but for the two pacemen it had seemed an eternity since they were handing their England caps to the umpire.

Play finally got underway in a Test that lost its first two days to the weather for the first time in England since an Ashes Test against Australia at Lord's in 1964, and captain Andrew Strauss announced that both men would make their returns.

Specifically, Strauss said at the toss that Onions was to replace James Anderson, while Finn stepped in for Stuart Broad, which prompted frenzied speculation as to where that left them respectively in the pecking order.

Strauss was entirely unapologetic when asked about the selection of his line-up, adopting an approach near identical to that of his coach.

"We look at things from a very simple point of view - what is best for the England cricket team," he said. Who can argue with that?

For Onions, it was his first Test since January 2010 in Cape Town and what a long break it had been.

His Durham team-mate and former England dibbly-dobbly-wibbly-wobbly medium-pacer Paul Collingwood promptly tweeted: "Chuffed to bits for @BunnyOnions. Serious determination to work his way back to fitness and into the England Team."

Onions was the pick of the England bowlers on a patience-testing day for the hosts, and his efficient, bustling approach to the crease was instantly reassuring.

Equally Finn, despite missing out on taking the new ball with Onions, caused a real impact with his height and bounce coming on first change and took the key wickets of Darren Sammy and Darren Bravo.

What is important to note from the way that Finn and Onions performed, is that the pair picked up their rhythm and form following such a frustrating spell on the England sidelines.

After an entire winter of carrying drinks, bowling at cones with David Saker and playing Xbox, it was to the duo's credit that they were able to slot in as required and bowl with such accuracy and potency for extended spells.

Conditioning rather than cricket

This is the 'Team England' wider squad set up that Flower and Strauss have advocated for so long, and the value of having very competitive and accomplished back-up players was demonstrated.

Inevitably, there had been lots of debate about how England might miss Anderson's bowling, but it was actually his absence from the slip cordon that was most sorely felt.

Ian Bell, rather inexplicably wearing sunglasses on a dark, dank day in Birmingham, dropped two simple catches at slip which would have given England the ascendancy from early in the day.

But England will have been relatively happy with their day's work and, weather dependent, the hosts will look to bat quickly and effectively to post a first-innings lead that the bowlers can defend.

Only two teams have ever managed a Test victory after the first two days were washed out by rain: England triumphed over New Zealand at Headingley in 1958 when the spinners Jim Laker and Tony Lock shared 19 wickets in the match, while New Zealand also beat Bangladesh in similar fashion 11 years ago.

England will not be confident of a victory with the forecast so dubious for the next two days, but they certainly have the bowlers available - despite the absence of their frontline seam pairing - to fire them to victory if there is sufficient play.

It has been a difficult few weeks for a defensive and combative Flower, but his squad policy which he will be sure to employ on numerous occasions this summer and into the future has already shown its benefits.

On a purely personal level, Onions and Finn will just be overjoyed to be back bowling for England in a Test match.

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STAT OF THE DAY: To give you an idea of how wet it has been at Edgbaston, more than 80mm of rain fell in the 60 hours preceding the start of play on day three.

TWEET OF THE DAY: "Sir Ian (Botham) just said that if Usain Bolt bowls the ball at the speed he runs he will be the fastest bowler ever. Not certain that's right." It's not. (@Rugfindageneral)

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "I remember when the cricket was on BBC and they used to go to news breaks and certain races if there was a big meet on. One day (I think we were bowling against Australia), eight wickets fell and each of them were during breaks. Not one live wicket was seen." (Telaw)

SNAP OF THE DAY: Ah yes, it was 'Fancy dress Saturday' at Edgbaston. The Eric Hollies Stand is never short of non-cricketing entertainment.

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