Steven Finn was feeling “fantastic” after a five-wicket haul that took England to the verge of a resounding victory, and 2-1 Ashes lead, at Edgbaston on his return to Test cricket.
More than two years since being sent home from the tour of Australia having been deemed “not selectable” by then-coach Ashley Giles, Finn has returned with a bang against the same opposition, taking five for 45.
He removed Steven Smith cheaply before tea and sparked a collapse in the long evening session by having Michael Clarke and Adam Voges caught in the slips off successive balls.
Mitchell Marsh survived the hat-trick delivery but was soon bowled emphatically and Finn returned to take the wicket of Mitchell Johnson as Australia ended the day 168 for seven in their second innings, just 23 runs ahead.
Finn told Sky Sports Ashes: “We knew there was a lot of hard work to do today, so to get that lead and then put that pressure on as group of bowlers was fantastic. It’s been a while since I played Test cricket so to to get a ‘five-for’ on my game back feels fantastic.
“My first over went for 14 but after that I settled in well and bowled some decent balls.”
An England win inside two days looked possible at one stage, but they will have to return today to finish the job.
“You never want to look too far ahead, there was a sniff at one stage but they played well in the middle of the innings,” said Finn.
“There’s still pressure on us, we’ve got to do a professional job tomorrow.”
The one sour note for the home side was an injury which forced James Anderson off the field. The England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed nothing beyond “a tight side”, and Finn added: “No news, I’ve heard nothing yet.
“But pulling up halfway through an over, for someone like Jimmy, he wouldn’t stop like that if it wasn’t hurting.”
With Australia staring defeat in the face, Johnson admitted: “It’s not ideal, it’s not something we’re happy about.
“We’ve got 23 runs ahead and we need to fight in the morning. We need [Mitchell] Starc and [Peter] Nevill to put on a hundred partnership. England might be one bowler down as well.
“We’ve got to stop this rot, it’s not looking promising for us at the moment but at one stage it looked like we might get bowled out and not take it to a second innings for them.
“If we get 120, 130 ahead, we can have a real hard go at it.”
Johnson took his 300th Test wicket when he removed Jonny Bairstow, adding to his 2,000th run in the format which came on Wednesday.
He said: “You always want to win the Test but when you get these kind of accolades it’s always enjoyable.”
England have appeared in control almost throughout a manic contest but had to regain their composure – via half-centuries from Joe Root (63) and Moeen Ali (59) – after Mitchell Johnson dented home confidence with two wickets in three balls in his first over of a sunny morning in Birmingham yesterday.
Moeen’s eighth-wicket stand of 87 with Stuart Broad proved a telling passage of play, as England scrambled to 281 all out after Johnson’s early successes made it 142 for five.