Aiden Markram spoke of his "relief" after compiling a century on his return to Test cricket for South Africa on the first day of the first Test against the West Indies at SuperSport Park on Tuesday.
Markram hit 115 in a South African total of 314 for eight and then admitted he had wondered whether he would get another opportunity after being dropped by South Africa last year.
"It was the biggest sense of relief – and belief that I can still compete in this format," he said of his emotions on reaching his sixth Test century.
Markram, who made a sensational start to his Test career, scoring 1,000 runs in his first 10 Tests, was dropped last year after a prolonged slump during which he failed to score a half-century in 15 innings which included only two scores above 30.
"You do wonder if you will get the opportunity again," he said. "I've always loved red-ball cricket and I'm glad the coach and captain backed me."
Markram's return was part of a major reshuffle of the South African team by new coach Shukri Conrad, which included the elevation to the captaincy of Temba Bavuma.
Markram recently led his Sunrisers Eastern Cape team to victory in the first SA20 franchise tournament. "It might have helped from a confidence point of view," he said of his Twenty20 exploits. If you get tentative, you can dig a few holes for yourself."
Former captain Dean Elgar also had a return to form, scoring 71 as he and Markram put on 141 for the first wicket. South Africa reached 221 for one before new cap Tony de Zorzi was run out for 28 at the start of a collapse during which seven wickets fell for 93 runs before the close.
Fast bowler Alzarri Joseph spearheaded the West Indian fightback, taking three for 60 as the West Indian bowlers found swing, lateral movement and more consistency with the old ball.
"The pitch was a bit tacky at the start," said Joseph. "But it quickened up under the sun." Joseph said indentations from the ball landing on an initially soft surface had helped the bowlers.
"There's a few divots that might cause a few problems," he said.
The left-handed De Zorzi was looking comfortable before he was run out for 28. De Zorzi punched a ball from Joseph through the covers. Tagenarine Chanderpaul made a good sliding stop.
De Zorzi was sent back after setting off for an unlikely third. Chanderpaul's throw was off target but wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva flicked the ball into the stumps.
Bavuma was leg before wicket for nought to a full delivery from Joseph two balls later and Joseph struck again when he yorked Markram. Markram hit 18 fours in a 174-ball inning studded by trademark cover drives and powerful pull shots.
Elgar, who was stripped of the captaincy after South Africa were heavily beaten on tours of England and Australia, made 71 off 118 balls.
The South African team showed five changes from the side that played in the last Test in Australia in January.
De Zorzi and fast bowler Gerald Coetzee won their first caps. The West Indies made one change from the side that beat Zimbabwe by an innings and four runs in Bulawayo earlier this month.
Left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie, who took 13 wickets in the win in Bulawayo, had a back injury and was replaced by fast bowler Kemar Roach.