Graham Onions is enjoying a surprise opportunity to press his claims for a place in England’s Test XI.
The paceman, who was the most prolific bowler in the LV= County Championship last season, was a late call-up to the England Lions squad after Durham team-mate Mark Wood was forced home with a side injury.
Despite missing the warm-up games, Onions is featuring in the first ‘Test’ against Sri Lanka A which began yesterday.
He claimed a sole scalp today and is unsurprisingly eyeing a return to the main England fold.
“If I am being honest, it was unexpected,” he said. “I didn’t think I would have had the opportunity to come out here and show what I can do.
“It’s an opportunity which I really want to take with both hands and give myself the best opportunity to go into the county season and push for a Test spot.
“That is looking a long way ahead, of course, but I am ambitious and training hard to hopefully get an opportunity.”
Onions, who had not played a competitive game for a month before taking the field in Pallekele, was pleased with the way he bowled as England Lions took command.
Having taken their overnight score from 299 for nine to 330 in the morning, thanks chiefly to Onions' 22 not out, the second-string then dismissed Sri Lanka for just 171 as Chris Woakes claimed four wickets.
“I enjoyed it; it was good,” added Onions. “I have not bowled in a game for pretty much a month exactly.
“You bowl as much as you can at a cone in the middle or in the nets but until you stand in a field in intense heat, you cannot take anything for granted.
“I’ve enjoyed today and no doubt I’ll be a little bit stiff tomorrow. But the most important thing for us is that we’re in a good position and we have a game to win.”
Onions et al know, though, that there will be plenty of hard work ahead as they attempt to seal victory.
He admitted: “There are obviously a few people who are a little disappointed that they got out and that we are four down.
“But when we needed to this morning, when the ball was new, we got wickets and that was a credit to our captain Chris Woakes and all of the guys really; we all chipped in with wickets.
“We just need a good couple of partnerships tomorrow to make that total they are going to have to chase pretty much unchaseable really.”