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Toughened Tremlett ready to lead attack

Andrew Miller at Lord's

June 1, 2011

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Chris Tremlett pace and bounce was too much for Sri Lanka's batsmen, England v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Cardiff, 5th day, May 30, 2011
Chris Tremlett routed Sri Lanka on the final day in Cardiff © Getty Images
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At 6'6", Stuart Broad cannot have been dismissed as a "midget" on too many occasions in his international career, but he could well be made to look like the runt of the litter if, as expected, England field the tallest pace trio in Test history at Lord's this week. The lanky Steven Finn is standing by to replace the injured James Anderson, but towering above all of his colleagues will be the bona fide beefcake, Chris Tremlett, a man whose sheer physical presence at Cardiff on Monday translated into the most telling spell of his career to date.

There's only a matter of inches separating the heights of England's three tallest seamers, but with legs like tree-trunks and shoulders that can appear to be the width of the pitch as he bears down on his opponents, Tremlett's physique has more in common with brick privies than the beanpoles that his team-mates can occasionally resemble. At the age of 29, and four Tests into his second coming as an international cricketer, he has at last found the self-confidence to match his natural aptitude for fast bowling.

"Naturally I'm a pretty wide-built guy and I'm a pretty intimidating character to face," Tremlett told reporters at Lord's, two days after his spell of 4 for 40 in ten overs had secured a stunning England victory by an innings and 14 runs in the first Test. "I guess I've always been a believer in letting the ball do the talking, but in the last couple of years, I've become more confident and more aggressive on the field. Being six foot whatever you always have a slight advantage bowling at any batsman."

It took a well-documented shift from the home comforts of Hampshire (where his father Tim is director of cricket) to Surrey for Tremlett to prove he was ready to resume his Test career. However, the impact he has made in his second coming has been staggering. From his five-wicket haul on the first day of the Perth Test to his Ashes-clinching dismissal of Michael Beer at Sydney, he has been in the thick of the action for England, and was at it again in Cardiff this week, when he scalped both Sri Lanka's openers in the space of eight deliveries to make possible their sensational collapse to 82 all out.

Such imposing performances had been anticipated when Tremlett made his Test debut against India four years ago. However, despite some encouraging performances - particularly at Trent Bridge where he claimed six wickets in the match including 3 for 12 to delay India's victory charge on the fifth morning - there was a certain something lacking from his armoury. "I did try to be aggressive but I guess it was forced a bit, to be honest," he recalled. "I tried to be someone I wasn't ... it was difficult to be nasty."

He's finding it rather easier now. As many of the great West Indian fast bowlers would testify, verbal aggression is not a requisite to Test success - witness the silent menace of Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and Curtly Ambrose, to name but three. However, in the opinion of his former captain at Hampshire, Shane Warne, Tremlett's body language betrayed him as a soft touch, a charge the man himself did not dispute.

"I won't disagree with Warney," he said. "I was a bit timid at times, but the older I've got, with more confidence and age, being more aggressive comes more naturally to me, and I guess my competitiveness has gone up, certainly since moving to Surrey. I perhaps held back a bit at Hampshire. These days, I don't think about it too much - it just happens."

Nevertheless, it was Warne who came up with the one piece of advice that Tremlett has carried into the rest of his career. "If it wasn't going well for me, for example, bowling no-balls, he said 'just find a way'. That's really stuck with me in my career. Don't look for excuses, keep going and somehow find a way to get the job done."

He did that and more in Cardiff, in a bowling performance that scattered Sri Lanka's batting in less than 25 overs all told, and left their coach, Stuart Law, ruefully contemplating the challenge of "getting forward to half-volleys that hit you in the chest." "In the first innings I tried to get it up a little bit but my execution wasn't quite as good," said Tremlett. "In the second innings I did get it right, and my rhythm felt a lot better."

Had it not been for Anderson's side strain, Tremlett might not have been unleashed with the new ball for that decisive spell, but having used the conditions to perfection, it might be a while before England strip him of the honour. "I maybe offer a bit more with the extra bounce you get with a new ball, so I do enjoy bowling with it," he said. "But I still feel I can play whatever role, new ball or change. I'm pretty flexible on that.

"The wicket at Cardiff was particularly slow, so it will be interesting to see what it's like at Lord's and whether we'll go for our shorter bowlers. But myself, Finny and Broad always have that natural advantage over those guys that are 6ft. The short ball is a great weapon - and playing against this team, they are not used to it at times. It could be a plan we'll go with, but we'll assess that on the day. It's something to think of."

The overall impression is of a cricketer who has found his niche. Jonathan Trott, England's new-crowned player of the year, admitted it took him until his century in the Boxing Day Test to truly feel as though he belonged in the side, and while Tremlett was careful not to tempt fate given his history of injuries, he too admitted he feels at ease in the set-up, and confident of his worth.

"The England management know what they're going to get - whereas maybe a couple of years ago, when I was bit more inconsistent, they didn't know which Chris Tremlett was going to turn up on the day," he said. "I guess anything can happen with injuries as a bowler, so I'm not taking anything for granted, and I have had an injury history which will always stick with me in some regards, but it's great to have had an injury-free year and hopefully that will continue."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by 5wombats on (June 4, 2011, 8:18 GMT)

No need to comment on what some others have put here....!! It's brilliant to see Tremlett back in the side and doing so well. Wonderful to have such a scary bowler! As someone else said; Tremlett doesn't need to sledge anyone - the ball does the talking!

Posted by stormy16 on (June 3, 2011, 9:51 GMT)

This would be close to SL's nightmare - fast bowlers all over 6.6! SL historically really have struggled with the bounce more than anything else and no suprises given the wickets they play on. To come up against 3 of them must be just like the ultimate nightmare not just for SL but for most teams I guess. Not sure how many teams would be looking forward to facing this sort of attack. So are any of these up there with the best? Not yet. Steyn for me is in a world of his own with swing at pace while Zak and Anderson with guile and skills are probably next. Then come a bunch of decent pace guys which is where these 3 tall guys fit in.

Posted by purple-haze on (June 2, 2011, 18:36 GMT)

@shan156 : you sure have got your "stats" right, I give that to you. A few things though didn't really make sense to me. "A test match bowler should be judged by his performances in test matches only." A test match bowler? Is that how you explain Anderson's struggles in the ODIs? Is that the excuse? And you mention about Dale Steyn being mediocre in the ODIs too. I agree. But then, there'd be a galactic difference between the "Dale Steyn Mediocre" and "Jimmy Anderson Mediocre" Do you remember the trash that Anderson served up in the WC? And do u remember Dale Steyn's annihilation of the mighty Indian batting line-up in Nagpur ODI where they lost 9 wickets for 20 odd runs? Zaheer, of course finished the highest wicket-taker. I was of course talking about the recent performances, and across all formats. Thats why I said that apart from Dale and Zaheer, no one else ticks all boxes PRESENTLY.

Posted by r1m2 on (June 2, 2011, 16:08 GMT)

Tough or not, Tremlett actually never did 'poorly' in test cricket. Since his debut he's done well in every match. In the middle he was down with injuries, but I think he's come out of the injuries a tougher man, and that's what's really changed. IMO a few injuries are absolutely required in a fast bowler's career, in order for us to sort out the real deals from the pretenders.

But what feels awkward, is the height of the English pace bowlers. Who can be called tall anymore.. They got Anderson who is 6-1, then they got Broad at 6-5, and Tremlett says what??? He's 6-7. Finn 6-7 too.. what the heck is going on in England... Gough seems like a midget..

Factually speaking however there were a couple of bowlers whom I never saw in real life and never thought were as tall as they were, they were Fraser, Mullally, Caddick. And the ones who felt taller than they were include Gough.

Posted by crikkfan on (June 2, 2011, 14:18 GMT)

ind - eng is a truly mouth-watering contest ahead ! can't wait for that .. btw it felt just the same before ind-sa late last year!

Posted by Shan156 on (June 2, 2011, 14:09 GMT)

If beefy said that, why can't you just leave it as his opinion? He probably thinks that, on current form, England are as good as India or SA. As many people in this thread have pointed out, most England fans don't think that we are #1. We, rather, prefer England go in there as underdogs as they seem to perform better when they are tagged as underdogs.

Also, there were a few Indian fans who said their team was #1 when they beat ICC #1 Aussies in the 2000-2001 series and drew in the 2003-2004 series.

Posted by Shan156 on (June 2, 2011, 14:04 GMT)

@Vivek Krishnan, OK, England haven't done anything great in the last few years. But, what have India done? They haven't won a single series in SA or Australia. The 2007 England side that you beat was quite an ordinary one too, don't you think? You mention that we beat Bangladesh, Pakistan and Australia but those were the only teams we played in the last, didn't we? You also conveniently forget that we too drew with SA in SA just like India did.

India are the #1 team in the world, according to ICC. Their incredible home record and very good away record clearly places them ahead of all other teams. They deserve their #1 ranking. But, on current form, most people feel that there isn't much difference between the top 3 test teams. Let's face it - India are not the 90s/noughties Australia or the 80s Windies team. They have a great battling line-up but their bowling, sans Zaheer, is ordinary.

Posted by Shan156 on (June 2, 2011, 13:52 GMT)

@ChandraPrince, You really don't understand the difference between tests and ODIs, do you? Tremlett (and Jimmy) is a proper test match bowler. I agree, he hasn't looked great in ODIs but England, as a whole, have been poor in ODIs for the best part of the last 2 decades.

@purple-haze, Dale Steyn? Yes, but Zaheer Khan? He has looked outstanding for the last few years but if you look at his overall stats, his test bowling average in Australia, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies is mediocre. The difference in the bowling averages of Dale and Zaheer is nearly 10. If you are going to look at only recent stats, then Jimmy's performances aren't very different to Zaheer's. Again, I am talking only tests. I know you mentioned "across all formats" but IMO, a test match bowler should be judged by his performances only in tests. If you talk ODIs, Dale's ODI stats are quite mediocre.

Posted by purple-haze on (June 2, 2011, 13:15 GMT)

@Vivek Krishnan : well, lets give credit where its really deserved. English team has really done well over the past 18 months or so. Australia may not be the force they once were, but the manner in which England drubbed them was enough to show that they are a very capable team. Regarding Ian Botham's Comment about them being the "best test team in the world", i think its a little premature. There is an exciting series with India coming up in England's own backyard. That'll show us whether England are truly capable of walking the talk. It is also a chance for MS and his Indian Team to shut the detractors once and for all. India, England and South Africa all are pretty close at the moment and no side can claim superiority over the others. For those who think India has a poor record in England and Australia and don't deserve the top rank, its worth noting that England's record on the subcontinent is no better. So, if thats there reasoning, they themselves aren't anywhr near to rank 1.

Posted by ibbotsoni on (June 2, 2011, 13:13 GMT)

@vivek. I take your point, and I do agree India are a proven side in all formats. But the game changes, and your examples of Indian results are out of date. Botham is talking about current form and results, and England have swept past all before them in the last year. How many innings victories is it now? India did beat England in England but that was 4 years ago.

India are a very, very good side, and if this seires was in India, they would be favourites. India are better at travelling than Sri Lanka, have some world class players at the top of their game, but will need to play at their very best to beat England in England.

England just favourites. Not as big a favourites as India in India would be perhaps, but still England by a whisker.

We shall see!

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
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