Marcus Trescothick is one step closer to a return from the international wilderness after being named in England's 30-man preliminary squad for the inaugural Twenty20 World Championships that take place in South Africa in September.
Trescothick has not been considered for England since he withdrew from the Ashes tour last November with a recurrence of the stress-related illness that had forced him home from the India trip earlier in the year. But his momentum-seizing batting was sorely missed during England's uninspiring World Cup campaign, and the temptation to include him in the final 15 on August 11 could be overwhelming.
"As it stands nothing has been set in concrete, it's just an opportunity for us to take our time," Trescothick told BBC Sport. "I'm just enjoying my cricket here [at Somerset] and we'll continue to see how it goes over the next couple of months. I can only judge between now and August 11 whether I'm fit to tour again and at this moment it's given us an opportunity to say if I feel things have progessed we can maybe think about it."
England's chairman of selectors, David Graveney, said: "Marcus Trescothick is a contracted player and was named in the England Performance squad earlier this summer. We have decided to name him in this provisional squad in order to give us more flexibility should it be decided that Marcus is ready to return to international cricket before the tournament takes place."
The Twenty20 World Championships could be the perfect way to ease Trescothick back into touring life - the trip lasts only a fortnight and while it is high-profile, the experimental nature of the format should take much of the pressure off the participants.
"We are pleased that Marcus has made a successful return to county cricket this summer and he remains a world-class opening batsman but we will not be placing undue pressure on him to make a return to international cricket without first carefully considering all the issues involved," said Graveney. "Ultimately, we will be guided by Marcus and the ECB medical staff as to his availability and I would anticipate that further discussions will take place with him before the squad is narrowed down."
Trescothick's recall was advocated by many this week, including his friend and former Test team-mate, Ashley Giles. "If he is ready to return, which is the most important thing, then he has to be in our Twenty20 team," said Giles. "I think it would be a good opportunity - if he felt he was getting close - to use it as a first step back into the England team. It will be a little more relaxed, it's not a very long trip, so let's get him in."
England's selectors have cast their net wide at this stage of the deliberations, with several notable inclusions in the 30-man squad. The most remarkable is Chris Schofield, the Surrey legspinner who played two Tests for England in 2000 and was one of the first players to be awarded a central contract system. His career, however, went into freefall after that and three years ago he was released by Lancashire and faded into minor counties cricket.
He fought and won an acrimonious legal battle against his former employers, but it wasn't until Surrey offered him a one-year contract last summer that his career got back on track. This season he took 17 wickets in eight Twenty20 matches, although it was not enough to secure them Surrey a place in next month's semi-finals.
Darren Maddy is another man who hasn't played internationals for seven years, although he has since made a name for himself as a Twenty20 specialist, while Paul Nixon is included as another wicketkeeping option alongside his successor in the one-day side, Matt Prior.
There are two uncapped players in the 30-man squad - Sussex's exciting allrounder, Luke Wright, who was this season's top run-scorer in the Twenty20 Cup, and the Essex captain, Mark Pettini. There is no place, however, for Yorkshire's captain, Darren Gough, nor Sajid Mahmood and Ed Joyce, who toured with England this winter but have since faded from view.
Squad James Anderson (Lancashire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Ravi Bopara (Essex), Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Leicestershire), Glen Chapple (Lancashire), Paul Collingwood (Durham) (captain), Alastair Cook (Essex), Andrew Flintoff (Lancashire), James Kirtley (Sussex), Jon Lewis (Gloucestershire), Mal Loye (Lancashire), Darren Maddy (Warwickshire), Dimitri Mascarenhas (Hampshire), Paul Nixon (Leicestershire), Monty Panesar (Northamptonshire), Mark Pettini (Essex), Kevin Pietersen (Hampshire), Liam Plunkett (Durham), Matt Prior (Sussex), Chris Schofield (Surrey), Owais Shah (Middlesex), Ryan Sidebottom (Nottinghamshire), Jeremy Snape (Leicestershire), Vikram Solanki (Worcestershire), Chris Tremlett (Hampshire), Marcus Trescothick (Somerset), Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire), Luke Wright (Sussex), Michael Yardy (Sussex)