Saker salutes 'fantastic' Tremlett
The rain hammering on the roof of the indoor school at the Rose Bowl almost drowned him out, but England bowling coach David Saker still managed to get his message across: few bowlers excite him like Chris Tremlett.
If Tremlett shared the wickets and bowling honours with James Anderson yesterday, he was unquestionably the star performer today, collecting four more victims en route to current figures of 6-42, his best in Tests.
He was almost solely responsible for hastening Sri Lanka’s slide from 81 for four to 177 for nine on another rain-ravaged day that saw only two hours’ – and 23.2 overs’ – play.
His display over the last two days – and, more specifically, the pace and bounce he generated from his 6ft 8in frame on an almost tailor-made pitch – has earned comparisons with Joel Garner, the West Indies great whose height is the stuff of legend.
A smile spread across Saker’s lips as he pondered the likeness, partly because of the mischievous headlines he knew it would generate, but largely due to the thrill he gets from watching Tremlett at his unplayable best.
“He’s got a lot of attributes like Joel Garner - height and good bounce,” said Saker. “It’s a big call to compare him with Joel but that height and the bounce he does get, he complements Jimmy really well.”
Saker first saw Tremlett bowl "three or four years ago", but it was at an England net session, bowling to Kevin Pietersen, at the Oval late last summer when the Surrey seamer made an indelible impression.
“I just watched two balls and went up to Andy Flower and said, ‘This guy is a Test cricketer’,” Saker recalled.
“Any bowler with height excites me. That day in the nets at the Oval, because I was so close, and watching from behind, it looked even better.
“Guys with height always have a little bit of an advantage, and if you talk to some really good batsmen, the bounce of a ball is so important in Test cricket. The taller guys can exploit that.”
It is not only Tremlett’s natural attributes that make him such a difficult prospect; his natural length puts both the batsman’s stumps and body under threat.
“When he gets his length right, he’s a huge handful,” said Saker. “He’s challenging the stumps, the gloves, the splice of the bat, and batters really struggle against tall bowlers who keep hitting the splice regardless of length.
“All you need then is a bit of sideways movement that brings the rest of the fielders into play, as well as lbws and bowleds.
“It was very pleasing to see how much it bounced here, and if we had to wheel out a wicket week in, week out, that’s what we’d like to see.”
Tremlett has rarely dipped below the exceptional since he returned to the England side, following a three-year absence, in last winter’s Ashes.
Thanks to a change in his fitness regime, the 29-year-old is seemingly over the injury problems which blighted his Hampshire career, and 31 wickets in five and a half Tests is the ultimate proof that he belongs at this level.
Saker pointed out the need for Tremlett to replicate this sort of performance on less helpful pitches, but he echoed the thoughts of many of those watching today when he said: “He’s proven to a lot of people he belongs in Test cricket.
“He has been exceptional in the last 12 months. He’s been fantastic for us. He needs to keep improving and in Test cricket wherever you go you’re not going to get the same wicket.
“Then he’ll have to adjust his length again, and the pleasing thing was he did that here. Sometimes that’s not as easy as it seems.”