Countdown to the Ashes: Trescothick ready to take leading role on biggest stage

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Marcus Trescothick is ready for the intimidating challenge of a full-blooded Ashes series even though he admits he "fell out of love" with the game at times this year.

England's 30-year-old opener missed the Champions Trophy because of a "stress-related illness". It was the second time in little more than six months that Trescothick had been a conspicuous absentee from an England trip to India, having left the Test tour of that country in similar circumstances last spring. Yet it was towards the end of the recently concluded English summer that Trescothick recognised he needed more time away from cricket.

"I knew towards the end of the season I needed a bit of a break. The summer wasn't good for me," he said. "Dealing with all the pressures of the illness and trying to compete at a high level of sport is not easy to do. I needed time away from playing. When you start to fall out of love with something you've been in love with for years it's a bit scary"

Trescothick believes it was a step forward when he began to be honest with himself. "To admit it to yourself is very tough - but then having to tell other people about it, you feel like you're weak, that people are going to perceive you in a certain manner. But it was the best thing for me, to tell people what was going on just so people would understand and give me the opportunity to get myself well, come back and start enjoying the game and doing well again."

Trescothick believes he can now start looking forward again with renewed enthusiasm and confidence. "I feel good - I'm itching to get going," he said. "Having watched the guys out in India, the excitement when the team gets a wicket, I want to get back out there. When you've had a rest it rekindles the buzz you've longed for all your career."

Trescothick also tried to allay fears that England had gone backwards since the Ashes. He said: "I don't think we took the foot off the gas but coming into [this] series everyone will give it everything. All the cricket in between almost falls into insignificance."

Vice-captain Andrew Strauss also dismissed as irrelevant England's results over the last year. "The greatest thing is we know we can beat Australia. A lot of previous England sides never had that experience and feeling, so that makes it easier," Strauss said.

Meanwhile, the England bowler Sajid Mahmood admits he is still coming to terms with his meteoric rise into the Ashes squad. When Michael Vaughan's side reclaimed the famous urn at the Oval last year, Mahmood was playing for Lancashire's second XI in Liverpool.

"I was playing second-team cricket back then so my aim was just to establish myself in the first team for Lancashire," he said. "So to play five Test matches for England and 10 or so one-dayers made me think 'Whoa, what's going on'?"

"But there was a lot of hard work put in during the winter. My form's been a little bit up and down but I've been working a lot with the coaches. I've improved quite a bit so I'm pretty happy with how things have gone.

"We're all looking forward to the Ashes and hoping to do well for our country."