Chris Tremlett: Ashes offer chance for England's players to reserve their place in history

 
Chris Tremlett
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England Portrait Session
The Ashes begin on Thursday in Brisbane and it's so important that England start well (Source: Getty)

Winning an Ashes series in Australia changed my life and the opportunity for a group of England cricketers to do something very special beckons once more as they draw swords at The Gabba in Brisbane on Thursday.

It may have been seven years ago now but when I turn on the television and see clips of that 2010-11 tour, when England won Down Under for the first time since the 1980s, the memories come flooding back.

Bowling Australia out for 98 on Boxing Day, the first day of the fourth Test in Melbourne, was just fantastic and the best few hours of cricket I have ever played in or been involved with.

Fourth Test - Australia v England: Day One
Routing Australia for 98 on Boxing Day 2010 was fantastic (Source: Getty)

But the fifth Test at Sydney really stands out when I bowled Mitchell Johnson first ball on the fourth day and nearly took a hat-trick – the noise the Barmy Army generated in that moment was unreal.

My abiding memory, however, is when the match was over and ground was empty. All the wives and girlfriends had gone back to the hotel and the entire squad went for a beer on the outfield.

We just sat and had a really honest chat about everything we had gone through, shared and achieved together, right back to the pre-series team building camp in Germany.

Fifth Test - Australia v England: Day Four
I bowled Mitchell Johnson for a golden duck in Sydney. The noise from the Barmy Army was unreal (Source: Getty)

It was very poignant to be on the outfield of the SCG and to have a drink with all the people who you had experienced the trials, tribulations and successes of the last few months with.

I had only played three Test matches before that tour, all against India three years earlier, and, even though I had done quite well in those games, nobody really knew who I was.

But having won the Ashes on Australian soil and taken the final wicket of the series, bowling tail-ender Michael Beer, people remember you for it. Names are there to be made.

Australia v England - Third Test: Day 5
It was a very different story for Alastair Cook's England during the 2013-14 series (Source: Getty)

Triumphing Down Under doesn’t happen very often and being on the last tour there in 2013-14, when England were whitewashed 5-0, emphasised the scale of previous achievement. It’s bloody tough to win on those pitches.

That tour was the antithesis of 2010-11 and not a very pleasant series to be involved in. I remember being in the hotel in Brisbane after the first Test and thinking there was a weird, eerie and negative vibe going around the dressing room.

When Jonathan Trott went home with a stress-related condition before Adelaide and given the manner of our 381-run defeat at The Gabba, a little bit of fear came into the dressing room knowing how fast tormentor-in-chief Johnson was bowling.

CRICKET-ENG-AUS-ASHES
Losing Jonathan Trott from the 2013-14 tour was a massive loss (Source: Getty)

Confidence just ebbed away from some of the senior players and they weren’t speaking the right language. When that happens and a negative mindset is adopted then it can bring the team down.

For their part, Australia have not been shy this week at reminding England of what happened during that 2013-14 series as the build up to the start of the Ashes has intensified.

Seamer Josh Hazlewood has said that Australia intend to re-open the scars borne by survivors of that tour at every opportunity, while spinner Nathan Lyon has been the most incendiary.

Australian Cricket Training Session
Nathan Lyon has said that Mitchell Starc is bowling quicker than Mitchell Johnson did in 2013-14 (Source: Getty)

Lyon has said that he and his team-mates hope to end the Test careers of English batsmen and warned that Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are bowling quicker now than Johnson did four years ago.

So much comes down to the first Test, the first session of the first Test, in fact. If England can get some sort of early momentum then any demons from the past will be quickly forgotten.

If it starts badly, however, then things can quickly spiral out of control but I have a feeling that England are going to come out the blocks well in Brisbane and surprise a few people.

There are weaknesses in that Australian line-up for England to expose and it’s not as if the hosts are going into the series with a settled line-up.

Fifth Test - Australia v England: Day Five
Victory on Australian soil can secure a players' place in history (Source: Getty)

Wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Paine is set to play despite not featuring in Test cricket for seven years, while the uncapped Cameron Bancroft looks ready to open alongside David Warner.

England should take confidence from that and if they can exploit some of Australia’s weaker areas then there is no reason why they cannot be competitive in this series.

Some of the players, the likes of former skipper Alastair Cook, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who were involved in 2013-14 can also draw strength from 2010-11. And while there is inexperience among England’s ranks, those players are also free from the baggage of 2013-14.

If the first-time tourists to Australia can play without fear and express themselves then there is a real opportunity for them to make a name for themselves and contribute to England achieving something very special over the next month or so.

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