The two men who lit up the English cricketing summer with superhuman performances – Ben Stokes and Steve Smith

The Oval. Monday, 15 July. The day after England won the World Cup.

The celebrations were winding down. The players had taken the trophy back to the dressing room and the children that came to meet their heroes were drifting from the stands.

For no apparent reason, the aching beauty of Etta James’ At Last came wafting out of the public address system to fill the emptying ground.

It’s a beautifully emotional song in ordinary circumstances, but on that grey lunchtime, it came with the added feeling of the previous day.

After 44 years of waiting, four years of planning, six weeks of drama from Durham to Southampton and one astonishing final, England were world champions. At last.

That barely believable Sunday, when Sweet Caroline was belted out by the whole of Lord’s, was the day that cricket reannounced itself to a nation seeing England playing live on terrestrial television for the first time in a generation.

Little did we know, the heart-stopping drama, unbearable tension and unscripted theatre of the World Cup final would be repeated six weeks later.

This time it was to the soundtrack of Headingley’s Western Terrace, heard far and wide by listeners huddled around radios on beaches, in aeroplanes or on top of mountains.

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