Ashes repeat spurs Chris Tremlett on
Paceman was vital to England's victory Down Under two years ago and, he tells Richard Edwards, he's eager for a couple more goes at the Aussies in 2013
Thursday 27 December 2012
It's Boxing Day 2010 and Chris Tremlett is preparing for the biggest test of his career. Outside the England changing rooms 100,000 raucous spectators are crammed into one of the most atmospheric grounds in world sport and are baying for English blood.
Just six days before, the Aussies had pulled level in a pulsating Ashes series, beating Andrew Strauss's men on a typical Perth pitch that had ruthlessly exploited England's shortcomings against fast bowling of the highest class.
That Test was Tremlett's first in over three years and his performance – he took 8 for 150 in the match – was one of the few bright spots of an otherwise dispiriting 267-run defeat.
As the team travelled to Melbourne the pressure was on. What happened next was truly remarkable as the hosts were skittled for just 98 – their lowest score against England for 42 years. Tremlett took 4 for 26, including the prize wicket of the Aussie captain, Ricky Ponting. The world, it seemed, was at his feet.
"I was more nervous for Melbourne than I was in Perth just because of the atmosphere," he says. "I had been there as 12th man for the one-day series there four years earlier and it was a pretty daunting experience just carrying the drinks.
"We won the toss and ran out in some pretty good conditions and bowled like a dream. It was awesome. I took four wickets but the thing that stands out the most is that when we came out to bat later that day the sun came out immediately – it was just the perfect day.
"Bowling in front of almost 100,000 people and helping bowl Australia out for under 100 was as close to perfect as you can get."
Forward-wind two years and Tremlett is once again in demolishing mood, only this time he's tackling a built-in wardrobe at the house he moved into at the tail-end of a miserable summer that ended in painfully familiar fashion in July.
He had returned to the Surrey line-up just weeks before, following back surgery on the disc injury that had forced him to fly home early from England's Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in January.
This time it was a knee injury coupled with a slight recurrence of back problems that curtailed the Hampshire-born bowler's season and once again left him on the sidelines looking on in frustration as England surrendered their No 1 world ranking to South Africa.
Now, after successful surgery in September, Tremlett is once again on the path to recovery and hoping that another Ashes year – and 2013 is a double Ashes year – brings a change of fortune.
"It was an unpleasant couple of months having sciatica in my back and not being able to get out of bed properly," he says. "It was a depressing time because you never know if that pain is ever going to go away. You do start asking yourself if you're ever going to be pain-free but I never thought that I couldn't do it [the rehabilitation] again because the experience of going through things like that in the past has made me stronger.
"It's just nice to pass the worst of it I guess, and hopefully my luck will change and things will start going in the right direction. I want to live a normal lifestyle again because over the last year it has just been rehab and no cricket, which gets very tedious."
That injury was the latest setback for a man who made his Test debut against India back in July 2007 but has never enjoyed a prolonged run in England colours as a result of the stresses and strains he places on his enormous 6ft 7in frame.
He stands a frustrating wicket short of his 50th Test scalp and is all too aware that it will be a year next month since his last international cap against Pakistan in Dubai.
"It has been a while since that Test but, to be honest, I know that if I'm at my best I offer something completely different," he says. "There's certainly a place for me there, in my eyes, and I know when I'm bowling well I'm as good as any of those guys. The most daunting thing for me is actually just getting back fit and bowling again.
"I didn't watch loads of the India series but I thought we bowled really well out there. Obviously, the spinners have done a great job and Jimmy [Anderson] bowled extremely well as did Steven Finn when he came into the side. I think we learnt pretty quickly out there."
The same could be said of Tremlett on an Ashes tour during which he emerged as one of the most outstanding bowlers in the global game. He finished that series Down Under with 17 wickets at a cost of just 23 apiece and capped off the most memorable winter imaginable by taking the wicket – bowling the spinner Michael Beer in Sydney – to seal England's first win in Australia since 1987.
Tremlett being mobbed by his team-mates after claiming that wicket remains one of the abiding images of the entire tour. "It doesn't seem that long ago, the time has flown by," he says. "That was the best time I've ever had in a cricket shirt. To cap it off with a win was awesome. Playing in an Ashes Test is what everyone plays cricket for. You want to play for your country but playing in the Ashes is just that little bit more special."
Tremlett began light training earlier this month and he will be trying to put an England recall to the back of his mind and instead focus on making an impact for Surrey when the county season begins in April.
Then he'll be out to prove that, despite being down, this Boxing Day hero is most definitely not out.
"There have been some dark moments but the memory of that success is driving me forward and giving me the motivation to try and bring that kind of success again.
"I would love to have another crack at the Australians and, hopefully, the sight of me at the start of my mark will bring back some painful memories for them. If I can get myself fit then I can give them another grilling."
Stats magic: Tremlett in numbers
2: Number of five-wicket Test hauls, against Australia and Sri Lanka.
49: Number of Test wickets from 11 matches, with an average of 26.75.
8 for 150: Best Test match bowling figures, against Australia in Dec 2010.
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