Surrey captain Mark Butcher has not ruled out a return to international cricket, despite being overlooked for the current Ashes tour Down Under.

Croydon-based Butcher, 34, led his club to the Liverpool Victoria County Championship Division Two title last season, hitting 1,418 runs at an average of 59.

The left-hander, who memorably put Australia to the sword at Headingley in 2001, has been plagued by injury since being England's highest scorer in the 2004 Test series against the West Indies.

And, after making a full recovery to lead his side to promotion - under the guidance of father Alan - he had been hoping the international selectors would come knocking.

But, even when England opener Marcus Trescothick pulled out of the tour at the 11th hour due to a stress-related' illness, the door to the Test arena remained closed.

"Never mind being called as a replacement, I was disappointed not to get a shout in the first place," he said. "I knew it would be an outside chance but I hadn't written it off until I saw my name wasn't down.

"As long as I'm still playing, the driving force behind wanting to get better and better is that you know you could end up playing for England.

"Until such I'm told by whoever is in charge there is no chance, then that will remain the hope.

"As the years go by, that becomes less likely, but I won't be announcing my inter-national retirement just yet."

It was during one of Butcher's injury lay-offs that Surrey slipped from their lofty position as the Manchester United of county cricket, dropping into the game's second tier in 2005 for the first time in 16 years.

But, having romped to the Division Two title under an avalanche of runs from Mark Ramprakash, the skipper has warned the rest of the county scene his players are ready to recapture the glory days of the late 1990s, when Surrey won three championship titles and four one-day trophies.

"It hurt us to go down. There isn't a tremendous amount of difference between the two divisions financially. It is really about pride," said Butcher, who recently signed a new two-year contract.

"The first objective was to go back up. Secretly, I wanted to do it in style and we showed we had the quality to do that.

"The players are capable of being able to challenge next year. The senior players realise there is about two or three years where we are going to have optimum chances of winning trophies again."

l Butcher was speaking at the launch of Surrey CCC and Fulham FC's equality coaching healthy options project, which uses structured football and cricket training to promote health and nutritional messages to children.