(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
By Richard Edwards
Chris Tremlett is backing Toby Roland-Jones to shine Down Under after almost certainly sealing himself a seat on the plane following his heroics against South Africa.
The Middlesex man took eight wickets in his debut Test at the Oval, including 5-57 in his first innings as an England bowler.
Always at the batsman, Roland-Jones brought some old-fashioned attributes to the England bowling line-up with his unrelenting accuracy and ability to nip the ball off the seam proving too much for Faf du Plessis’s men.
In many ways, the 29-year-old represented a throwback to another era and although Australian pitches are likely to offer far more pace and bounce than those back home, Tremlett, the hero of England 2010/11 Ashes triumph, believes Roland-Jones possesses the qualities to be a success on whatever surfaces he finds himself bowling on.
“He was banging out a length, hitting the seam and letting the ball do the talking,” he tells The Cricket Paper. “He reminded me a lot of (Vernon) Philander. He’s not a bowler who bowls with great pace, around 80 miles an hour. If there’s anything in the surface, which there was at the Oval for the bowlers, and you can seam the ball like Toby can, then he can be very, very dangerous.
“He’s like the Gus Fraser-type bowler you used to see in the 90s. Hitting the seam and waiting for the batsman to make mistakes. It will be a little bit more of a test in Australia because the flat pitches there, like the ones in India, will offer more of a challenge.
“On really flat surfaces he’s not going to be as potent but, like we saw at the Oval, if there’s anything in the pitch then he’ll pose a real challenge, regardless of where he’s playing.”
Roland-Jones has had to bide his time to make his England bow, being handed a chance only as a result of injuries to Chris Woakes and then Mark Wood. He has, though, taken it with both hands.
Tremlett himself, knows something about being handed an opportunity relatively late in your career. He was part of the England squad throughout the 2005 Ashes but only really made his mark in Australia over five years later shortly before his 30th birthday.
At the time, Tremlett was viewed as the new breed of English quick – tall, muscular and capable of getting the ball down the other end at speeds approaching 90mph. Alongside the likes of Stuart Broad and Steven Finn, he extracted the kind of steepling bounce that troubled the very best batsmen.
Roland-Jones offers a very different threat – one carried by the likes of Fraser and, going back further in time, Brian Statham. His rather more prosaic skills might be viewed as light artillery compared to what has gone before but he has certainly proved mightily effective so far this summer.
“You don’t have to have great pace when you’ve got a skillset like Toby,” says Tremlett. “His action is pretty simple, there’s not too much that can go wrong. He did for England exactly what he has been doing for Middlesex for the past nine odd years. His record speaks for itself – he has a strike rate of under 50 in county cricket and averages 25.
“He has been doing it in county cricket for Middlesex for a long time and has a good, repetitive action which allows him to hit the seam regularly. There’s not too much with his action that can go wrong really. He’s an intelligent bloke and he keeps things pretty simple – he has that old school seamers mentality.
“He runs up and he hits the seam. The challenge for him will be when the wickets get a little bit flatter and, in Australia, he’ll be coming up against more aggressive batsmen. They’ll target him, I would think, and look to hit him off his line and length. When that happens we’ll see what he’s made of but he’s a pretty unflappable kind of cricketer and not someone who’s easily fazed. I would say his temperament is well suited to the Test game.”
Roland-Jones already looks at home at the highest level – Australia, though, will prove a different challenge entirely.
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