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The 'nearly man' Tremlett has arrived at last

There was profoundly little for England to celebrate yesterday as they came crashing to earth here. But, as the players left the field having dismissed Australia for the second time in three days, they paused to make way for a weary Chris Tremlett to lead them off. He had deserved his place in the sun by taking 5 for 87 in the innings and 8 for 150 in the match. Tremlett has been England's "nearlyman". Aged 29, he seems to have arrived at last.

He was on the fringe of the 2005 Ashes team; and was invalided home from the New Zealand tour in 2008. He did play three Tests against India, but that was in 2007. When a new face was required in England's pace attack,Steve Finn was preferred to Tremlett. He finally made it back into the England team here at Perth because of the injury to Stuart Broad. Although he is not the sort of character who bears a grudge, he must have wondered whether he would ever make it. His victims here were Australia's top men. More than two-thirds of their runs were scored by Shane Watson and Mike Hussey. Tremlett took both their wickets.

Watson was lbw, one of four wickets that were bowled, lbw or caught behind. That defines his quality. He is fast, accurate and deploys his height (he is 6ft 7in) to get bounce from a pitch that encourages fast bowling, especially when the team plan is to bowl short, as it was yesterday. It will be surprising if he does not become a fixture for the rest of the Ashes.

To argue that there must be more to him than meets the eye is clearly not a reference to his size, but to his undemonstrative, self-contained personality. He did say at the close-of-play press conference that yesterday was "probably one of the greatest days of my life" and that it has still to sink in. But this was a passionless response, and he gave the impression of being somewhat divorced from reality. In the way of players who cling to clichés, he insisted that England could still win today, though, to be fair, he did qualify this by saying that "obviously, it's a long shot". It would have been a favour to him if the management – say, Andy Flower – had met the press after a torrid day.

Tremlett has a long, smooth face, with high cheekbones, a strong jaw, and fast bowler's muscular arms. His pedigree is saturated by cricket; his grandfather Maurice was an England fixture and his father played county cricket before becoming Hampshire's director of cricket. One reason why Chris left to join Surrey earlier in the year was to escape the comfortable embrace that Hampshire provided. Shane Warne, for example, found him a frustrating colleague: "I tried everything to get Tremlett to be more aggressive. He was just a bit soft," he said. The selectors worried that he had still to prove his worth.

He has put that part of his reputation to rest. In this Test, Tremlett has outbowled Steve Finn, a man of similar build and pace. Finn himself took three wickets to add to two in the first innings, but his propensity to leak runs has become a common criticism. It is quite likely that Finn will be dropped for the Melbourne Test, conceding his place to Tim Bresnan.

Some of the veterans of West Australian cricket commented on the absence of Broad, who, they said, could have been devilishly effective here. Tremlett added: "With age, I am naturally more aggressive." It is not clear where Tremlett gets it from, but, after yesterday's performance, the best Australian batsmen would be hard put to disagree.