- England v New Zealand, 1st Test, Lord's
Swann 'excited' by England return
Graeme Swann admits he is like an "excited child" ahead of a busy few months for English cricket - starting with the Tests against New Zealand and followed by back-to-back Ashes series against Australia.
Swann, who has remarkably missed all matches against the Black Caps since making his Test debut in 2008, including the draw in New Zealand at the start of the year, will make his first appearance for England since December when the sides line up at Lord's on Thursday.
And the spin bowler can't wait to get back playing after a recurring elbow problem.
"The operation on my right arm was tough and tortuous," he told The Sun. "But it has been worth it - and now I'm like an excited child.
"I love the opening Test of the summer at Lord's; wandering around the pavilion, eating in the players' dining room and joking with the lads again in the dressing-room all makes me very happy to be a cricketer.
"I always have the same peg at the back of the [locker] room, away from the balcony and alongside Jimmy Anderson and Alastair Cook. Even though Cooky is captain now, we've not allowed him to graduate to [former captain Andrew] Strauss's corner!
"The A word - Ashes - is not banned in the dressing-room but there has been no focus on it yet. There's no need to ramp up yet and it will be through the roof in a couple of months' time.
"We're concentrating on this series, which is dead right after the way the Kiwis played in New Zealand. They played well, deserved the series draw and now these two Tests take on greater significance. We're in for a fight.
"From what I saw and know, I don't think we took them lightly in New Zealand but several of our players were not in the greatest form. Most of the guys have started the summer strongly, however, and I'd expect us to win at home."
Swann headed to Minnesota in the US to undergo surgery and spent 12 days on a Continuous Passive Motion machine, designed to help extend the range of movement in the arm and reduce inflammation.
"Believe me, it wasn't much fun," added Swann. "The machine whirred away constantly and I was banished to the attic at home so the rest of the family could sleep! I had 50 minutes on and 10 minutes off and, in my solitary confinement, I had to try to nod off during those 50-minute periods with this racket next to me."
Since returning to action, Swann has bowled around 60 overs in a Championship match and two one-day matches for Nottinghamshire.
"They felt great," added the 34-year-old. "The ball was coming out well with nice bounce and decent revs. I love playing for Notts and you sometimes forget how much you enjoy playing with mates at your county."
And Swann, well known for his love of practical jokes, reveals that he has a bet with Notts team-mate and Australian opener Eddie Cowan, who will represent his country in The Ashes.
Swann said: "We have a deal that if I dismiss him four times in the Ashes series, he must wear one of my benefit ties to the Allan Border Medal ceremony -- which is like Australian cricket's Oscars ceremony. But if I fail to get Eddie four times, I must state publicly that he is the greatest batsman I have ever bowled to!"