The last time England won back-to-back Ashes series on Australian soil, Queen Victoria was on the throne and the first season of the Football League was still seven months away.
The idea that England would still be trying to repeat that feat a full 125 years later, would surely have been dismissed as a tall story.
Now, though, as England’s giant pace attack prepares to leave these shores for an assault on a fourth successive Ashes series win, the chance of Alastair Cook’s men finally ending that miserable run is a very real possibility.
If cricket’s oldest contest was decided by the heights of the respective pace attacks, England’s bowlers would have little need to board the plane at Heathrow on 23 October.
As it is, Boyd Rankin, Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett – all 6ft 7in or taller – will walk up those British Airways steps knowing that when the first Test in Brisbane rolls around two of them are likely to be carrying the drinks, rather than a threat to Australia’s flaky batting line-up.
Of the hulking triumvirate, Rankin is perhaps the man in pole position having performed so impressively during England’s otherwise disappointing one-day series against Australia.
Finn and Tremlett, meanwhile, will head Down Under for their second Ashes tours well aware they are well and truly under the spotlight.
Tremlett was selected for the squad ahead of Graham Onions, despite a season in which he took just 32 wickets costing 33 runs a piece for Surrey. In comparison, the Durham man claimed 66 at a cost of just 18 for the county champions.
The Surrey player, though, has been picked with his previous Ashes heroics very much in mind – claiming 17 wickets in three Tests at an average of just 23.35 in 2010-11 – and with pitches Down Under likely to contain far more spice than those we saw in England this summer, he is confident that he is tailor-made for conditions in Australia.
“The pitches I’ve played on here this year have generally been very slow, bar a couple,” says Tremlett. “The one up at Durham had a bit of pace and some nip while the one at Headingley also went through. Apart from that, I didn’t play on wickets with any real pace.
“I played at Perth, which is one wicket which does have excessive amounts of bounce, in the last Ashes series and generally the wickets are quicker and skiddier, so when you get an edge it carries to the keeper.
“A lot of the time this summer I was getting the edges but they were falling short. You have to go about your bowling in a different way here, it’s all about bowling at the stumps and trying to get more bowled and LBWs.
“You can get wickets in more conventional ways in Australia, with the slips coming into play a lot more. The wickets there are certainly quicker and you’re going to get that carry.”
If Tremlett’s performance on a lively pitch at Chester-le-Street is anything to go by, then England may have pulled a masterstroke with his inclusion – almost two years after he played his most recent Test match.
In that match, which Surrey lost by an innings, he took career-best figures of 8 for 96 in 33 hostile overs. Most encouragingly, he was running in as hard at the tail-end of a marathon stint as he was at the start.
The sight of a rock-hard Australian pitch can only add an additional spring to his step.
“You look at the guys who are there and, in terms of height, you’ve probably got the four [including Stuart Broad] tallest guys on the circuit,” Tremlett says. “We can all get it down there and having Boyd Rankin in the mix – and I actually think he might be the tallest of all of us – means that we we’ll have plenty of height and hostility on those wickets.
“If we can bowl well and bowl accurately, then it’s that type of bowling that generally comes to the fore in Australian conditions. You look at guys like Glenn McGrath, he wasn’t the quickest but he was very accurate and bowled good areas. If he got edges on those wickets then, generally, they carried.”
At the age of 32, Tremlett, who is just one short of 50 Test scalps, is well aware that this could be his last chance to make a lasting impact at international level.
It is often forgotten that he was 12th man for his country for the majority of the 2005 series in which England regained the Ashes for the first time in a generation.
He could even be viewed as the last man standing after a season during which Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison retired.
After missing such a large chunk of his career through injury, though, Tremlett is determined to make the most of a call-up that was as unexpected as it was welcome.
“Being honest, it’s a different sort of feeling this time around,” he said. “Getting the call a few years ago was very exciting because I hadn’t been involved in the England set-up for a few years. It was a bit unexpected... I thought I might scrape into the development side and force my way into the Ashes squad that way.
“Now I’m a bit more experienced, I’ve had more time out of the game. It’s hard to describe how I feel this time, I guess I’m relieved that I’ve been given another opportunity to go to Australia and that all the hard work I’ve put in in the last 12 months has been worth it.
“I’ll be looking to replicate the way I bowled last time when I’m over there again this winter.”
England will hope he can hit those heights again.
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