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June 13, 2011
When Chris Tremlett left life at the Rose Bowl in January last year not even he thought he'd return, barely 18 months later, in an England cap ready for the first Test in the ground's history.
His rapid transformation from injury-ruined forgotten man into England's towering marksman has been remarkable and now that he's finally making inroads at the highest level he is happy to be back at his old county.
"I made that move to Surrey with aspirations of maybe making it to England but I never expected it to happen so soon," he told ESPNcricinfo. "People had doubted whether I had the drive to come back into international cricket so to prove people wrong has been great.
"It will be pretty special to return to the ground where I grew up playing with an England shirt on. There are a lot of people down there who have been following my career and helped me so it will be good to return."
There was plenty expected of Tremlett after his powerhouse performance helped England steal an unlikely final-session victory in Cardiff but he and the rest of England's bowlers misfired in the second Test at Lord's. A combination of malfunctioning radars and another lifeless Lord's strip - not to mention Tillakaratne Dilshan's stirring 193 - worked to neuter the attack but looking ahead to the third Test Tremlett insists those struggles have been forgotten.
"We didn't bowl as well as we wanted to which is always frustrating. Test cricket is all about building pressure and bowling maidens and though we showed some good signs at Lord's we weren't consistent enough. During the Ashes we won games by building pressure, not leaking runs and boundaries which is where we went wrong at Lord's but we'll move on.
"We will head to the Rose Bowl full of confidence. We're a good side with a strong bowling attack and I'm sure we won't bowl as badly again."
The goal of rectifying that poor Lord's showing would be aided by a more sporting surface but having spent most of his cricket career with Hampshire, Tremlett knows the Rose Bowl pitch all too well and isn't expecting much. "I hope it's quick and bouncy, obviously, but I doubt it will be. Towards the end of 2009 when I left it was pretty flat and pretty slow and was one of the reasons why I left Hampshire because the wicket wasn't really suiting my bowling."
Given the potential of a flat track the new ball becomes all the more vital. Tremlett started the series against Sri Lanka as first change behind James Anderson and Stuart Broad and it was only Anderson's injury that allowed him the new ball in the second innings at Cardiff. With Anderson set to return for the third Test and Broad's form still lacklustre Tremlett is keen to revive the partnership with Anderson they shared during the Ashes. "I do like having the new ball because it gives me extra bounce and I feel with my height I can use that well."
Though his international second-coming is still in its fledgling stages, he is the only England paceman to play every Test since returning to the side in Perth last winter and has taken 25 wickets in five games during that time. The returns speak of a very different bowler and much more confident person from the one that left Hampshire frustrated and unfulfilled.
"When I came to Surrey I gained confidence every month, almost every game because I trusted my body again," he said. "Mentally things changed, I could just really run in hard, give my all and not worry about getting injured. It used to be a struggle, I used to wake up with my body in pain and the amount of painkillers and pills I was taking was extraordinary. It has got easier over the years but I want to keep doing it and keep performing."
As a team England have made no secret of their ambition to become the world's best and thanks to a deep pool of fast-bowling talent that goal can be more than the empty corporate mission statement it once was. Though Tremlett should have done enough to feel secure for a while he only has to look at Steven Finn to see how quickly the pecking order can change and for a bowler who has battled injury for most of his career he is taking nothing for granted.
"There are a lot of talented fast bowlers around and not many places up for grabs so if you do have one or two bad games you run the risk of being dropped. As a fast bowler you can get nasty injuries and people come ahead of you so you can't get too ahead of yourself."
"In England you are always in the spotlight but the older I've got I've relaxed more and not put myself under too much pressure. I'm just instead concentrating on being the kind of bowler I know I can be."
Chris Tremlett is an ambassador for 'Chance to Shine supported by Brit Insurance' and was helping to launch 'Brit Insurance National Cricket Day', a day of cricket-themed activity in schools on June 23 www.ncd.chancetoshine.org
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Plays of the Day from second ODI between South Africa and Pakistan, in Port Elizabeth