In international sport, one man’s misfortune is another’s opportunity, and Stuart Broad’s injury has enabled Chris Tremlett to revive an England career he must have feared had ended before he could demonstrate his shining ability.
Tremlett was included in the squad for this Ashes tour after a strong season for Surrey, but he had not played a Test since the summer of 2007. Had England’s pace attack remained fit for the five-match series, Tremlett would probably not have featured in this series, and who knows if he would have played against Sri Lanka and India next summer?
Yet Broad’s abdominal injury gave Tremlett his chance, and at the WACA today, he took it. Charging in with the new ball from the Northern End, the giant paceman tormented Australia, removing Phillip Hughes in his first over and finishing with three for 63 from 23 overs of maturity and menace as he helped England dismiss Australia for 268 after Andrew Strauss had won the toss.
Strauss survived a couple of edgy moments but he and Cook guided England to 28 without loss at the close to complete another satisfying day for the tourists.
Tremlett was dropped by England partly because of his perceived lack of aggression. Yet when you are 6ft 7ins and can bowl above 90mph, who needs to sledge? Tremlett’s effort delighted his father, former Hampshire all-rounder Tim, who flew to Perth immediately when he heard his son was likely to get the nod.
Tremlett’s freshness was vital to an England team who are starting to tire ever so slightly after seven weeks Down Under. That might seem a strange observation after they bowled out Australia inside a day, but both Steve Finn (calf) and Kevin Pietersen (hamstring) spent time off the field for treatment, and Jimmy Anderson twice collapsed with cramp under the unforgiving Western Australian sun.
Tremlett for Broad was England’s only change, while Australia recalled Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus as part of a four-man pace attack. The unlucky man, slow left-armer Michael Beer, is a ringer for double Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso, but the selectors’ decision to go for all-out speed meant Beer was left in the pits.
The distinct green tinge on the WACA surface persuaded Strauss to let his bowlers off the leash, and Tremlett led the way like a man who had played 50 Tests, rather than only three before today.
In his first over, the Surrey man produced a beauty that nipped back into the left-handed Hughes, sneaked between bat and pad and clipped the top of the stumps. It was not the return to the Test team Hughes would have wanted after replacing the injured Simon Katich, and he was on his way for two.
Despite scoring only 70 runs from four innings in the series before today, Ricky Ponting had looked in reasonable form. The captain moved off the mark with a lucky boundary, edging Tremlett between third slip and gully, but was then quickly into his stride as he punished Tremlett Anderson with leg-side boundaries.
When Anderson found the outside edge of Ponting’s bat shortly afterwards, the Australian captain must have anticipated four more runs. Yet he could only stare in amazement as Collingwood flew to his right and clutched a stunning one-handed catch at third slip - one of the best you will see.
Once more, England’s excellent fielding had left Australia trembling, and soon, they were 28 for three. Michael Clarke has looked uncertain for most of the series and this was an awful shot, a half-hearted prod at a wide delivery from Tremlett providing wicketkeeper Matt Prior with a simple catch.
Shane Watson had successfully reviewed a caught-behind dismissal in the first over of the match when replays showed the delivery from Anderson had touched only his thigh pad, but the TV footage could not save him a second time. Hit on the toe by a full delivery from Finn, Watson’s signal for third umpire Aleem Dar to take another look was forlorn, and it did not save him. Having been two for three at Adelaide in the Second Test, Australia now found themselves 36 for four.
Mike Hussey and Steve Smith, on his Ashes debut, battled through to lunch, but No 6 looks at least a place too high for a player with a first-class average of 25. It was no surprise, therefore, when Smith pushed away from his body shortly after the interval and was caught by Strauss at first slip, giving Tremlett his third wicket.
Without Hussey and Brad Haddin, Australia’s batting in this series would have been a shambles. They could not recreate their 307-run partnership from the First Test in Brisbane, but a breezy stand of 68 as the pitch became easier at least put the brakes on England a little.
Hussey dominated Graeme Swann at the Gabba, but the England man got his own back at Adelaide and he won the contest again here, drawing Hussey forward and taking the edge of the bat with the classic off-spinner’s delivery to the left-hander. Hussey was initially given not out by Doctrove, but when England called for the review, Mr Cricket was on his way for 61.
If only the Australian specialists could have shown the fortitude of their lower-order. Haddin was typically feisty for his 53, but was undone by a lazy drive at Tremlett that produced another super catch, this time Swann leaping to cling on with both hands at second slip.
Johnson was similarly assertive, hitting seven fours and a six in his 62. While he has been chosen for his ability with the ball, Johnson confidence levels can rise and fall quickly, so such an innings might help his bowling in this match.
After Ryan Harris had been yorked by Anderson for three, Peter Siddle lent Johnson able support. When Johnson hit Finn straight to Anderson at square-leg, the final pair of Siddle and Hilfenhaus enjoyed a riotous stand of 35 in fewer than six overs to carry Australia to 268 all out.
From 69 for five, that was a decent effort. This Australia side do not have the quality of their predecessors, but the signs are that they are regaining their fighting spirit.
Tom Collomosse is the cricket correspondent for the Evening Standard.Reuse content