One name stood out as a beacon of hope when England announced their performance squad for the international summer. In a list containing the usual suspects, the presence of Chris Tremlett was not only a mild surprise but a clear indication that he is wanted back in the Test side.
Tremlett has played only 11 Tests for England in a career that began in 2000 and has been dogged by injury. But they were quite sufficient to demonstrate qualities much admired among fast bowlers: pace, bounce, penetration, constant nagging doubt in the batsman's mind. Whether he can return again at the age of 31 from the back and knee complaints which have precluded his playing for England since January last year and restricted his 2012 season with Surrey to only seven matches must be the subject of considerable doubt. But that the England selectors are eager to let him try is plain. The 30 names announced are those at the forefront of their minds.
Tremlett reported only last month that he was "in a good place at the moment" after his latest encounters with surgeons. He needed an operation for a bulging disc in his back after he was forced to leave England's tour of the UAE in January last year. In September, he had an operation to repair torn knee cartilage. Last month, he went with a coterie of young bowlers to Potchefstroom in South Africa for his first outdoor workout in six months when the signs were heartening and then returned to South Africa with his county Surrey for their pre-season tour.
Chris Adams, the county's director of cricket, said: "I stood in the game when he bowled his first short spell and the only way to describe it is that he looked venomous. Chris has been through dark periods with injuries he's had at various stages in his career but he has been very focused on what he wants to achieve after these latest setbacks. Our medical team at Surrey have invested a tremendous amount of time and effort in him and it deserves to pay dividends. The first few weeks of the season are hugely important. He's got to get back on the field, bowl some overs, bowl the next day and put together a sequence of games."
Tremlett did not play in Surrey's warm-up match against Kent, but Adams is optimistic that if he comes through a second XI match next week he will appear in the county's opening First Division match. Everyone in official circles is deliberately avoiding all Ashes talk but that nonetheless is the plan.
England's bowling looked as though it needed an injection of what Tremlett has to offer on their recent tour of New Zealand. Too often they lacked sparkle and struggled to swing the ball. Tremlett is not by definition a swing bowler but with his attributes it hardly matters.
Anyone who saw him operating at the peak of his powers during the epic Ashes triumph in Australia two years ago will understand why the selectors cling on to the hope that he can make another comeback. That tour was one of the few stages in his career where his body and his form merged in sufficient unison.
Tremlett is an undemonstrative man and possesses none of the aggressive personality traits that fast bowlers are supposed to need. But it was much to his great glee that he took the wicket which confirmed the series for England in Sydney, when he bowled Michael Beer. Had his body been less prone to regular breakdown he might have played 111 Test matches rather than 11. The look on David Saker's face when he first saw Tremlett bowl in the nets after arriving as England's new fast-bowling coach in 2009 was a wonder to behold, according to observers.
Saker immediately made up his mind that Tremlett had to go to Australia that winter and has been an admirer since. What Saker did not know at the time was that Tremlett's body constantly rebelled against the trials of his trade but his appreciation has remained solid.
The son of the former Hampshire seam bowler, Tim Tremlett, Chris made a spectacular entrance into first-class cricket by taking a wicket with his first ball. He was 18 when he had the New Zealand opener Mark Richardson caught at slip for 0 at Portsmouth in July 2000.
The next few years were a mixture of rich promise and deep disappointment as niggling injuries interfered with his progress. There was also a suspicion that he wanted something that fast bowlers can never have – a fully functioning body at all times.
But he impressed on his first entry to the England team in 2007 before injury intruded again. His meeting with Saker led to a revival. England declared unofficially that they want him back again.
A N Cook (Test/ODI capt; age 28), S C J Broad (T20 capt; 26), J M Anderson (30), J M Bairstow (23), I R Bell (30), R S Bopara (27), T T Bresnan (28), D R Briggs (21), J C Buttler (22), N R D Compton (29), J W Dernbach (26), S T Finn (23), A D Hales (24), J A R Harris (22), C Kieswetter (25), M J Lumb (33), S C Meaker (24), E J G Morgan (26), G Onions (30), M S Panesar (30), S R Patel (28), K P Pietersen (32), M J Prior (31), J E Root (22), G P Swann (34), J C Tredwell (31), C T Tremlett (31), I J L Trott (31), C R Woakes (24), L J Wright (28).
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