Australia’s Mitchell Marsh said Thursday there were times he thought “he might not get back” after he ended a four-year absence from the Test arena with a scintillating Ashes hundred.

Marsh’s run-a-ball 118 was the centrepiece of Australia’s 263 on the opening day of the third Test at Headingley and the all-rounder then dismissed Zak Crawley as England threatened to rebuild after losing two early wickets.

The 31-year-old Marsh is in Australia’s tour squad as cover for Cameron Green, ruled out of this match with a hamstring strain.

“On a long tour you always get a chance at some stage, I just wanted to stay ready,” Marsh told reporters after stumps. “It was a bit of a surprise and very unfortunate for Greeny.”

Marsh joked that, due to his understudy role, he was the “first man to score an Ashes hundred on a UK holiday”.

He added: “There’s always times when you spend a bit of time away from the game where you think you might not get back.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work, I chose to have ankle surgery and miss last summer to get on this tour knowing I was going to be Greeny’s understudy. I’m really proud to get back.”

When asked how he maintained his morale while out of the Australia team, Marsh pointed to his Baggy Green cap and said: “I wanted to wear it one more time.”

‘Evenly poised’

Australia’s second-highest score was Travis Head’s 39, highlighting the importance of Marsh’s century in an innings where England fast bowler Mark Wood ripped through the batting line-up .

Marsh credited his upbringing on the hard wickets of Western Australia for coming out on top against express quick Wood.

Marsh said he “could lean on my experience of growing up at the WACA (the Western Australia Cricket Association ground in Perth) against fast bowling, sink or swim from a very early age.”

But he wouldn’t be drawn on his chances of playing the next Test in Manchester, joking: “I wouldn’t mind going back to my UK holiday to be honest.”

England closed on 68-3, with Marsh saying the game was “pretty evenly poised”.

At 2-0 down with three to play, Wood kept the hosts’ Ashes hopes alive with one of the fastest recorded spells of bowling in a Test in England.

The 33-year-old averaged 90.5 mph (145.6 kph) while taking 5-34 in 11.4 overs and cleaned up the tail with a burst of 4-5 in 16 balls in what was the injury-blighted Durham quick’s first match this series.

“I knew I had good rhythm, was bowling fast,” said Wood. “That first spell in particular, that’s as good as I’ve felt at home in an England shirt.”

Wood clocked a top speed of 96.5 mph, but played down suggestions he might hit the magic 100 mph figure with a favourable tailwind.

“No, I don’t think so, it would have to be a bloody strong wind.”