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Chris Tremlett toils to prove Ashes fitness as Notts turn the screw

Surrey 198 Nottinghamshire 360-6

If Chris Tremlett, one of England's heroes in Australia in 2010-11, is to have a part to play in this summer's Ashes series, then it is probably just as well that he had to endure a long, hot day in the field here.

Hard work is what Tremlett, 31, needs most if he is to force his way back into England's Test plans – especially since the emergence of another fast bowling giant, Warwickshire's Ulsterman Boyd Rankin, who was included in the squad to play in the recent Ashes warm-up game against Essex.

The word is that England, in fact, would most like to have Tremlett available for the return Ashes series in Australia at the end of the year, but first the man who took 17 wickets in only three Tests when the urn was retained in style two winters ago must prove he is back to his best at county level.

It was a day of unremitting toil for Tremlett, and for Surrey, as Nottinghamshire moved remorselessly into a winning position at 360 for 6 – a lead of 162 – with Steven Mullaney and Samit Patel to the fore. Mullaney scored 104 in only his second game as an opening batsman in the County Championship, while the estimable Patel remained 87 not out at the close.

James Whitaker, the England selector, may have been on the ground to keep tabs on Tremlett, but he will surely have also noted Patel's highly professional performance with the bat, which followed the scalp of Ricky Ponting with his left-arm spin on Monday, and in particular the way the heat of the day did not seem to weary him in the slightest.

Yet if Patel has arguably missed out on a significant number of additional England appearances because of fitness issues, there is no doubt that Tremlett's international career has been savagely cut back owing to a body that has regularly let him down.

Tremlett, indeed, has played just 11 Tests – the last against Pakistan in January last year – but his record of 49 wickets at an average of 26.75 neatly illustrates why England will not give up on him yet. This was his seventh championship outing of the summer – he made only one in 2012 after enduring surgery for both a disc problem in his back and a torn knee cartilage, plus the subsequent rehabilitations – but is on record as saying recently that he feels on course for a full recovery from the latest injury setbacks to afflict him.

His 3 for 71 from 23 overs was certainly evidence of progress being made – he took the wickets of Riki Wessels, Michael Lumb and Chris Read, all with excellent deliveries – but it was odd that he did not bowl until the 17th over of the day after Nottinghamshire resumed on 50 without loss, pinning Wessels lbw for 47 with his first ball.