The opening shot might have been a thunderous back-foot drive through point crashing into the boundary boards. "I am definitely ready now to play a Test match," said Marcus Trescothick. "It always goes in cycles, doesn't it?"
He gives the impression of hardly being able to wait until Thursday for the first game of England's short series against Zimbabwe. He is chipper and expectant, eager to resume his place on the big stage, as sure as he can be that the demons who accompanied him throughout the winter have been banished.
Of all the cricketers who formed part of England's ultimately miserable time in Australia and South Africa none was as beleaguered as Trescothick. He became increasingly desperate as runs, which had flowed throughout his international career, slowed to a trickle and then dried up. He was in a desert and if there was an oasis in sight it was probably a mirage.
The loss of form almost certainly deprived him of the captaincy of England's one-day team, to which he had been the heir apparent. Instead, the job has gone to his friend and Test opening partner, Michael Vaughan, whose form went in the opposite direction.
Trescothick has been back for long enough now from the Ashes and the World Cup to lend it all a sense of perspective. For the first time in an international career that began in a blaze of glory and continued that way, he had to confront a long run of failure. He believes he is through it, he insists that the lack of the captaincy has not affected him.
"I never felt great the whole time we were in Australia," he said. "My concentration wasn't as good, I lost a bit of confidence, started changing a few things.
"I started analysing why things were going wrong, or why I wasn't getting the amount of runs I wanted to and probably over-analysed throughout the rest of the trip. I tried to change my stance just to minimise things going wrong. Everything's lined up, such a great winter, the biggest possible, the Ashes and the World Cup in one go. The more it doesn't happen, the harder you try. Maybe I put a little too much pressure on myself. Maybe I just bottled it up, I'd explode, which isn't like me. But it was definitely more to do with me than anything else.
"Towards the end I wasn't sleeping. It got to the stage where it was on my mind constantly, how I was batting, how I moved my feet, and trying to change things. Everything I tried to do just made it that much worse."
It may all conclude for the best. He has always worked, but he will recognise in future how easily things can be taken away. Trescothick was the best thing to happen to English cricket in a decade. It was the start of the millennium and he provided the fireworks. Picked on a selectorial hunch as much as form, he was born to international cricket. He made 79 on his one-day debut, 66 on his Test debut and his maiden centuries in both forms of the game not long afterwards.
A one-day innings of 121 from 109 balls he made in a losing cause at Eden Gardens, Calcutta will remain an indelible vision. It was assertive and ferocious, and while there were other contenders a sound argument could be made for Trescothick as the best limited-overs batsman in the world. If it was not a walk in the park it did not appear to be climbing a mountain either.
Success changed him a bit. By his own admission he became stronger and more confident. He had what it took, though the suspicion was sometimes aired that he made runs despite his technique not because of it. Put simply, like the method itself, he moved his front foot, only slightly, straight down the wicket and whacked the ball.
Then came Australia. It was not utterly disastrous and there have been worse Ashes tours by English batsmen: Trescothick made 262 runs in his 10 innings. He has come back before. In his first full season of playing first-class cricket he was astounding. He was 18 and made almost 1,000 runs at an average of almost 50. But he was to be afflicted by second season syndrome, which hung around. He was suffering from the batting equivalent of ME. Eventually, they put him at number seven in the Somerset order to shake him out of it. But then came two winters away.
"Two years in Perth really changed me," he said. "I'd always had problems with being badly homesick. I was living on my own, I didn't know how to go on. But I had to grow up really quickly. Maybe I was a country boy, too much of a country boy.
"I also worked very hard with a batting coach [Peter Carlstein, who has helped legions of transient Englishmen]. The second year I was there I worked out how to bat, learned my game. I had a method rather than just going out to play. That's where everything went really from being an average county cricketer to a Test player."
That and a dramatically decisive 167 he made for Somerset against Glamorgan, whose coach Duncan Fletcher had been newly appointed to the England job. Weeks later, Trescothick was on an A tour, the following summer an injury opened up a place in the England team. "Luck of the draw," he said. But he had the talent and the drive to cash in.
He struggled to convey his reaction about the England captaincy. As Nasser Hussain's irregular stand-in the job had been his for the taking. But he must have known something was up when Hussain was unfit for a World Cup match against Namibia and Alec Stewart was summoned. "I don't know how I feel," he said. "Of course, I'm a little bit disappointed. It's not a dream or anything but I've been in the frame for some time."
Trescothick and Vaughan are pals. They first opened together in the England Under-19 team (Vaughan was captain) and stood at first and second slip. That morning Tres had spoken to Vaughny about his innings of 103 the previous day. Trescothick himself had made 70 from 74 balls. He is in good touch again. After five weeks' rest he had started the season for Somerset in high anticipation, left his third ball and was bowled. In the second innings he made 10.
"I felt absolutely terrible," he said. "I came off, knew something was wrong, looked at the computer and could see my mechanics were off. I said to our coach, Kevin Shine, 'let's go to the nets, now'. Within five minutes it was back." It was an epiphany. He abandoned the lower crouch that he and Fletcher had adopted and was upright again.
So he is ready. He looks leaner than he has ever done (he is prone to put on pounds), he has changed his training regime and his diet, which for the first time in his 27 years includes steak. They might have to change his nickname: for years he has been known as Banger because of his love of sausages.
He owes Australia, having made 321 runs in the 2001 home Ashes series. "I'm better than what I've shown. There is definitely more in the bank, waiting to come out." From the sound and look of him, the first withdrawals will be taking place this month.Reuse content