The Sporting Chameleon

an absolute cheesecake of a sports blog

Onions saves England despite inability

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ENGLAND escaped with a draw on Sunday from the first test against South Africa.

They were indebted to Paul Collingwood and Graham Onions’ 19-ball last wicket partnership, after a collapse from 205-4 to 218-9.

Onions, though by no means the world’s worst batsmen, bats at number 11 very much on merit.

Watching tailenders bat is a spectacle unrivalled in international sport.

The last time England were in a similar situation was in the summer’s first Ashes test at Cardiff and on that occasion two tailenders – James Anderson and Monty Panesar – were at the crease.

At least this time England had the obdurate Collingwood on the pitch, but it was Onions, all 24 test runs of him, who was on strike for the final six balls.

International sportsmen are the world’s elite at what they do.

But bowlers are not elite batsman – Onions is probably not in the top 1000 batsmen in England.

Equally batsmen are not elite bowlers – Andrew Strauss is probably not in the top 1000 bowlers in England – but Strauss has bowled six balls in international cricket and will avoid ever bowling another if he can at all help it.

However in the final over of this test match it was Onions’ forward defensive stroke that the nation was relying on against Makhaya Ntini, a bowler who ranks 11th on the list of all-time test wicket takers.

A man who can bowl against a man who cannot bat at the highest level of the game.

This does not happen in any other sport.

Usain Bolt does not also have to throw a discus.

Lionel Messi never has to play in goal.

Jonny Wilkinson has not once taken part in a scrum.

But Graham Onions is required to bat, after more accomplished teammates have failed before him.

And I, for one, was grateful that he did.

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