Three summers ago against England, Steve Smith didn't quite know whether he was a batsman or a bowler, and found himself out of the Australian team for the two years that followed.
Now, he not only knows what he is, but is going places fast. A third Test century in his past six matches and second of these Ashes has helped revive an Australian first innings that could have otherwise spiralled to a premature end.
It was deja vu for England, which had Michael Clarke's team 5-97 just after lunch on day one of the fifth Test, but found itself facing a 25-minute onslaught led by Mitchell Johnson late on after Australia recovered to record a rollicking 326.
A century by Steve Smith puts Australia back on track. Photo: Brendan Esposito
The new Ashes holder had Smith (115 not out) and Brad Haddin (75) to thank for that, keeping the dream of a 5-0 whitewash in play.
Australia's destroyer-in-chief Johnson will fancy his chances of making England pay again for letting the home team off the hook. He has lifted his wicket tally to 32 for the series already after nudging 150km/h on Friday evening and reducing England to 1-8 in reply after opener Michael Carberry, caught by a diving Nathan Lyon at leg slip, was unable to withstand the left-armer's assault.
It has been Johnson's series more than anyone's - even the outstanding Haddin - but the only player who has denied him a man-of-the-match award lodged an application for another on a high-scoring first day.
Leg it: Mitchell Johnson sends off Michael Carberry after his leg-slip dismissal. Photo: Anthony Johnson
Smith, judged best on ground at the WACA Ground last month, stood out with another face-saving ton. As his career blossoms, it is becoming easy to forget he is only 24, and was just 21 when he was dropped after the Ashes Test in Sydney in 2010-11. That certainly seemed an eternity ago as he was given a standing ovation on Friday.
''It's my favourite place to play, so I'm absolutely delighted to have got a hundred out here in tough circumstances,'' Smith said. ''I think we've had a good day. When you get sent in, getting 326 you probably take that, and to have them one-for overnight, we're in a good position.''
There was symmetry in the way Smith reached three figures. Once a leg-spinning Test tyro, he smacked debutant leggie Scott Borthwick for a six and then a four from a full toss to reach his third ton since a maiden century at the Oval in August.
Third man: Steve Smith acknowledges his third century in six Tests. Photo: AFP
As if enough didn't go wrong for the visitors, another of their three first-gamers, Boyd Rankin, suffered fitness dramas. England, which couldn't give extended overs to Borthwick for fear of him being taken apart further, was also guilty of a slow over rate, with Australia facing only 76 overs in its innings. Clarke's bowlers then sent down six, but even considering the two-over allowance for the change of innings, the day was six overs short.
There was a ray of light for England with all-rounder Ben Stokes continuing his fine debut series by claiming 6-99, but the tourists are chasing the game again, with Haddin again a thorn in their side.
Four times now, Clarke's team has been in trouble when it has lost the fifth wicket in its first innings - its score was 100 at that point in Brisbane, 143 in Perth and 112 in Melbourne - and four times Haddin has featured in a fightback.
Even a verbal barrage from England's James Anderson failed to put him off.
''I think Brad enjoys getting into a little bit of banter on the field and he certainly thrives when the England players are coming at him,'' Smith said. ''The way he has struck the ball all series, they don't really know where to bowl.''