Tremlett tells England: 'I'm ready for Ashes'
It has taken almost 18 months and a couple of operations, but Chris Tremlett finally feels he is ready to return for the Investec Ashes series.
England have yet to be entirely convinced that he can play a part. They have not named him in their squad to face Essex at Chelmsford, beginning on Sunday, preferring another tall fast bowler in Warwickshire's Boyd Rankin, but he remains of interest.
Even when he was struggling to get out of bed and wondering if his career was over, he received encouraging phone calls from Andy Flower to remind him that he was in England's plans. And now, at long last, he feels he is ready to return.
Tremlett played the last of his 11 Tests against Pakistan, in Dubai, in January 2012. He flew home shortly afterwards with a back problem which required surgery and, while he attempted to comeback in the subsequent English domestic season, managed only one Championship game before injury intervened again and he was forced to undergo knee surgery.
"If I was picked for a Test tomorrow I'd be confident," Tremlett told ESPNcricinfo. "If you had asked me that three games into the season, my honest answer would have been that I'm not ready to play Test cricket. But now I have some games under my belt, I have my confidence back. I feel I'm ready now. I've no doubt."
Tremlett admitted that he had struggled for rhythm in the first couple of months of the season but felt back to something approaching his best in Surrey's last Championship match against Yorkshire. While he only claimed two wickets, he delivered 48 overs at a sharp pace and, for the first time, felt he was back to the level that helped him earn 49 wickets in his first 10 Tests.
"My body found it tough for the first two or three games of the season," Tremlett said. "The first few games weren't that enjoyable as it was such hard work on my back and knees. I was still feeling it a bit.
"But I'm not far off my best now. Something clicked at Leeds. At Derby I took eight wickets and felt I bowled pretty well, but I felt better at Yorkshire. I ran in harder. I bowled 48 overs against Yorkshire and I was bowling as quickly in my last over as I was in my first. I've a lot my rhythm and a lot more trust in more body now."
Tremlett was a key part of England's Ashes victory in Australia during 2010-11, when he claimed 17 wickets in three matches but admitted that, while he would love to return to that level, he would consider it "a bonus" after all his injury troubles.
"I'd love to be back playing for England again," Tremlett said. "That's what motivates me when I train. It's hard to top being at that level and playing in the Ashes while you're in county cricket but it would be a bonus from the dark times I've had.
"I would look at it as a bonus if I played for England again. After lying in theatre rooms and being opened up by surgeons, I'm grateful to just come back and play cricket at all.
"I never thought it was over, but there were times when I thought I might struggle. There were times when I was in a lot of pain and I couldn't get out of bed. So it's nice to get through that, as other bowlers have, and it's great to be playing and enjoying it.
"I've been trying not to think about England too much. I'm trying to relax, play for Surrey and not think too far ahead. If I keep doing the right things for Surrey, I'll work my way back into the England team. But I do feel confident that I'm almost back to my best now."
Chris Tremlett was speaking at the launch of the 2013 Friends Life t20 competition. For match ticket information visit ecb.co.uk/FLt20. #FLt20
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo