Steven Finn has had a long and difficult road back to the Test arena, but after taking England within sight of an Ashes victory at Edgbaston he admitted he was finally having fun again.
Finn had last donned England whites in July 2013, when a wayward spell against Australia saw him axed one match into the series.
Worse was to come, with his confidence and run-up both wrecked on a miserable trip Down Under in 2013-14 which ended with a premature flight home having been deemed “not selectable” by then one-day coach Ashley Giles.
But he has worked hard to put his game back in order and got his rewards with a redemptive five-wicket haul as England took a stranglehold on the third Investec Test.
Australia will resume on 168-7, with a fragile lead of 23.
“To pull a Test shirt back on has been great fun,” Finn said, having soaked up the applause from a rabid Birmingham crowd.
“There have been dark times along the way, but it makes those good times all the more satisfying. To be sat here and help put the team in this position, it feels pretty darn good to be honest with you.
“Every cricketer goes through ups and downs no matter how high or how low. To come out the other side, it’s a good feeling.
“It’s been a while since I played Test cricket so to get a five-for on my game back feels fantastic.”
Australia batsman Chris Rogers, Finn’s former Middlesex captain, recalled seeing the 6ft 7ins seamer in tears during a county match at Edgbaston last season, but the emotions this time were all positive.
“I’m enjoying playing cricket at the moment. I used to put myself under a huge amount of pressure but now we just want to play with smiles on our faces,” he said. “We’re playing with a can-do attitude.”
Not all of England’s attack will look back on the day as fondly as Finn, though.
James Anderson had hoped to spend his 33rd birthday watching his team-mates bat all day, but the rapid nature of the match saw him pressed back into action in the afternoon session.
He pulled up with a side injury midway through his ninth over and was being assessed by England’s medics overnight, though he is clearly a doubt for next week’s Trent Bridge Test.