Tremlett must step up the pace as Test competition intensifies
Sunday 22 June 2008
Chris Tremlett's bowling analysis looked neat enough without being especially memorable. His 10 overs in the ODI against New Zealand at Bristol cost 24 runs and he took one wicket – that of Scott Styris, New Zealand's most experienced performer, who was batting on a pitch England thought would be helpful.
Paul Collingwood sent New Zealand into bat, and brought on Tremlett first change after he observed James Anderson having a bad day, his first three overs costing 21. Anderson was bowling when Brendon McCullum smacked the ball, hoping to clear mid-off, but Kevin Pietersen leapt high to dismiss New Zealand's most potent weapon.
The advantage the pitch conferred on England was bounce. Stuart Broad used his 6ft 6in frame to force Jamie How into a poor shot when he misread the bounce. In tandem, Broad and Tremlett have a combined height of over 13 feet which, without even referringto Wisden, can be declared a record. They made New Zealand's batsmen earn their crust on a day – it was the longest day of the year – that was dark, dank and persistently threatened rain.
Styris had been at the crease for only six balls when Tremlett bowled slightly short of a length and astonished the batsman with a ball that rose sharply to shoulder height, nicked Styris' glove and gave a catch to the keeper. Broad was no less effective, bowling right through his 10-over spell and taking 2 for 14. But, as befits the return of the prodigal son, it was Tremlett who caught the eye.
He was being watched carefully from the press box by Geoff Miller, chairman of selectors, who will be asked to make a number of difficult decisions about England's fast bowlers. Tremlett is one of the nearly men whose name will be on the long list for the Tests against South Africa later in the summer.
Miller has three requirements for his fast bowlers: "They must be technically on top of their game; they need passion and heart; and they must exhibit mental strength." In the past, Tremlett has shown promise, especially against India last year but he has also been deficient, at one time or another, in the three essential virtues he identifies.
Tremlett limped home to Hampshire from New Zealand last winter; tours to India and Pakistan were missed; and he was not selected for last year's Sri Lanka tour. When he has played, his commitment has been faulted. In Australia in 2006 he was dropped after a lacklustre performance in the field.
Tremlett does not look fragile. He is broad-chested and slim-hipped with a strong face dominated by high cheekbones. And he is conscious of the criticism. He gets upset when critics say he does not care enough. "There's never been anything else I wanted to do," he says. His father Tim and his grandfather Maurice were both distinguished professional cricketers, and he has no wish to let the family down. "Sometimes it looks like I'm not trying. I guess it's the way I carry myself."
He thinks he is more aggressive than he once was: "I've gained a bit of pace," he says. But he still has to convince the selectors. "The ball's in his court now," says Miller.
In England's four-man attack against New Zealand, Ryan Sidebottom and Broad have exhibited Miller's three essential qualities in abundance. James Anderson has been unpredictable and wayward, as he was yesterday (his 10 overs cost 61 runs.) He must be about to join the nearly men.
The most interesting of these are the veterans. If they continue to improve, Stephen Harmison and Simon Jones may rediscover the confidence that helped win the Ashes in 2005. Miller remains cautious – of Jones, he says: "He is on the mend but he is not yet mended."
And Andrew Flintoff? No nearly man he, though he isstill one of seven fast men competing for a maximum of four places in the late summer Tests. Miller does not mind: "The more pressure, the better I like it," he says.
How gratifying to talk to someone in the England set-up who could see potential pluses during a very trying day.
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