Steven Finn admitted he was disappointed to be left out of England's original squad in South Africa but made up for lost time with a decisive performance in Pietermaritzburg.
The 6ft 7in paceman took an eye-catching four for 34 against South Africa A on his first red ball appearance since early October, when a bone stress injury in his left foot ruled him out of the Pakistan series in the United Arab Emirates.
Finn returned home on crutches but despite a lengthy rehabilitation, including fitness work at his beloved Watford Football Club, was always confident of making the first Test against the Proteas on Boxing Day.
The selectors were less sure, leaving him out of an initial 16-strong party and only adding him after two T20 outings for the Lions in Dubai.
Now he seems certain to have leapfrogged Chris Woakes and Mark Footitt.
"I was disappointed to be left out of the squad in the first place because I know my body and thought I had very good chance to be fit for the Boxing Day Test match," said Finn.
"But the selectors obviously didn't think that. I had to accept that and it made me work doubly hard.
It was nice to get out there and get some overs under my belt. I'd like to think I'm ready for a Test match, but it depends how I pull up over the next day or so because I haven't spent this long on my feet for the last couple of months."
That final note of caution is understandable coming from a man whose triumphant return during the Ashes, after two years out of the Test reckoning, soon gave way to more time on the sidelines.
Having been primed for a shot at Pakistan, the Middlesex seamer soon found himself laid up while the likes of Mark Wood, Woakes and Footitt eyed his place.
"I was on crutches for two and a half weeks and I had the surgical boot on for a little longer," he said.
"It was a steady amount of time to be off my feet and parked on the sofa.
"But I did a lot of upper body and trunk strength work before building up my rehab with Watford, which I'm very grateful for, and at the moment everything is falling into place.
"It also helped that I had two weeks with the Lions out in Dubai building up to this point and there has been no bad reaction in my foot up to now.
"I'm positive about it. I'm hoping to be fit for that first Test, have bowled enough overs and bowled well enough to push selection."
Finn's was the star performance in a disciplined English display in the field.
South Africa's second string were strong on paper but, barring the diligent Stephen Cook, lacking in the middle as they tumbled all out for 136.
The opposition opener, who carried his bat for 53no, said of Finn:
"He bowled really nicely. He's got that height which is an added bonus for him, he hit good areas and did a little bit with the ball.
"I know he's come into this trying to regain fitness but he looked pretty fit from how I faced him today."
England's own Cook, Alastair, put on 64 for nought alongside Alex Hales before bad light stopped play.
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