Onions must get the nod over struggling Panesar

Andy Lloyd
MUCH of the talk surrounding today&rsquo;s first Test has centred around the condition of the Cardiff pitch and its effect on selection. While it seems the soft nature of the surface would suit the spinners come day four or five, I would urge England to consider going against the grain when selecting the XI to lock horns with the Australians.<br /><br />The smart money would be on Monty Panesar forming a two-pronged spin attack with Graeme Swann, but, for me, leaving out paceman Graham Onions, irrespective of conditions, would be a huge mistake.<br /><br />Panesar is hugely lacking in confidence &ndash; something you really don&rsquo;t need on the opening day of an Ashes series &ndash; and, subsequently, has not bowled well for some time. If that continues on day one of a Test match, then you are left carrying him for the remaining four days, bearing in mind he cannot field or bat either.<br /><br />Onions, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Ten wickets in his opening two hauls for England was a great start to his Test career, and he hasn&rsquo;t looked back since, claiming seven wickets for Durham in his last Championship match and then showing in a steady performance for the Lions last week that he can rattle the Australians. He simply has to play.<br /><br /><strong>LAST THE DISTANCE</strong><br />For Australia, losing paceman Brett Lee for the opening two Tests was a huge blow, not only in terms of his ability, but for his experience. Lee has won more caps for Australia than the rest of the bowling attack put together, and captain Ricky Ponting will rue not being able to turn to him when things aren&rsquo;t going his way.<br /><br />To win a Test match, you have to take 20 wickets and for that reason I believe England will come good in Cardiff this week. I feel the bowling attack is more balanced than the Australians&rsquo; and in Swann and James Anderson, we have two of the most in-form bowlers in world cricket right now. That said, England will need to fear Mitchell Johnson, who has taken on the role of Australia&rsquo;s premier fast bowler in the absence of Lee this year, while Peter Siddle is also a danger.<br /><br />With the weather forecast encouraging enough to suggest the match will last the distance, England will be quietly confident, but it&rsquo;s time for the senior players such as Strauss, Pietersen and maybe even Andrew Flintoff to come to the fore.<br /><br />CRICKET ASHES TOUR<br />8-12 July&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp; 1st Test&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Cardiff&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br />16-20 July&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 2nd Test&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Lord&rsquo;s&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br />30-3 July/August&nbsp;&nbsp; 3rd Test&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Edgbaston&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br />7-11 August&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 4th Test&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Headingley&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br />20-24 August&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 5th Test&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The Oval