IT WAS the day that cricket came home, a day when the country that invented the sport finally won its first men’s 50-over World Cup.
At 7.29pm on a sun-kissed Sunday evening, amid cheering that might have been heard from the sun itself some 93 million miles from Lord’s, England beat New Zealand in the most dramatic circumstances imaginable, winning a tied super over by virtue of having scored more boundaries in the day after both teams totalled 241.
The sporting stars had aligned for Eoin Morgan’s cricketers as they had for Bobby Moore’s footballers in 1966.
They think it’s all over… it is now.
And yet, as captain Morgan and his talented crew were savouring the acclaim of a breathless nation, a crew boasting Yorkshire’s finest in Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid, many were hoping that this was not the end but rather a beginning.
The catalyst for a brighter, better cricketing tomorrow. A much-needed spark after 14 years without free-to-air television coverage, leading to a decline in interest and participation.
Of course, the horse has bolted to a large extent; the movement of cricket from free-to-air to satellite television in 2005 is the very reason why the England and Wales Cricket Board has been playing catch-up ever since with concepts such as the 100-ball competition that starts next year.
But if those who watched yesterday’s match on Channel 4 following Sky’s decision to make the final free to all are inspired to fall in love with cricket, to attend matches in the flesh and perhaps even to become the Roots, Bairstows and Rashids of the future, then at least some good will have come from evil, as it were.
All sports need the oxygen of publicity, even though this match left viewers literally gasping for air.
Of course, now is not the time for too much serious reflection, but rather to celebrate Morgan’s team of all the talents.
England’s progress since the last World Cup of 2015 has been incredible, their hitherto ponderous style of play so divorced from the present dynamism that one might as well contrast the hansom cab with the Formula One car.
Since 2015, England have prioritised white-ball cricket in the same way that they always prioritised Test cricket, introducing separate white-ball contracts for players and, crucially, selecting the right players - ones inclined to attack at every opportunity.
England recognised that they were playing an analogue brand of cricket in a digital age.
Not any more.