Evin Lewis had The Oval standing to give him appreciative, deafening applause.
Unfortunately, Lewis could not raise his bat to acknowledge the full house. He could not even raise his back off the stretcher, as it happened. Lewis had just knocked himself out by punching a perfect off-stump yorker from Jake Ball into his right ankle. The power of the stroke flattened Lewis, leaving him with what was later confirmed as a hairline fracture that will end his tour.
It also erased the possibility of Lewis becoming the second West Indies batsman after Chris Gayle to record an ODI double-century, as he retired hurt 24 runs short of the landmark.
It would not be stretching the imagination to say Lewis might have got their with another four hits. The diminutive opener had leaped from 100 to 176 in 36 deliveries. Seven of those were sixes. There were also four fours. Lewis was finally playing like the T20 batsman we have come to know: a manic, mean, six-hitting machine, with an electrifying tempo.
But here Lewis showed he is much more than a showboat. West Indies had lost Gayle, Shai Hope and Marlon Samuels half an hour into their innings. Virtually everyone believe this was going to be a one-sided contest once again. Lewis proved them all wrong.
His innings was full of determination. He had made use of the short lengths that Chris Woakes and Ball attacked him with at the top-end of the innings, allowing him to get out of the blocks confidently. The challenge for Lewis and West Indies has been to convert the starts, to build momentum. Stuart Law, West Indies' coach had remarked on Tuesday that his batsmen loved strutting their muscle in first 15 and final 10 overs. In the crucial middle overs, West Indies had lacked the tactical nous to pace the innings.
Lewis and Jason Mohammed might not have envisaged they were about to start the rebuild. Lewis had just 250 runs in 17 previous ODIs this year. But Mohammed has been one of the better batsmen coming in for West Indies, in fact the second best this year with 424 runs before this match. Neither man allowed the pressure to climb, which happens fast when your team is 33 for 3.
Not only did they rotate strike regularly but they were hungry to create opportunities. Lewis was especially proactive, defeating not just the loose delivery, but also being aware of the narrowest of divides to push through the vacant space. The partnership steadily flourished and crossed the 100-run mark, thus establishing a platform.
"This was the first time West Indies had recorded two 100-plus partnerships against a top-ranked country in ODIs since 2004"
Even after Mohammed was out, Lewis' concentration did not wave. In his captain Jason Holder he found another willing and hungry partner. Teams, not least England, have begun to consistently chased 300-plus targets, so West Indies ought to think 350. But Lewis was not looking too far ahead. He played the situation.
He got his hundred with consecutive fours against Woakes, who was trying to fire short deliveries into Lewis' hips, only to be pulled past the rope. Lewis punched his right hand and yelled with joy. It was only the second century by a Windies opener since the 2015 World Cup - both were by Lewis.
Amazingly, in his previous 19 innings Lewis had crossed the half-century just once, when he scored 148 against Sri Lanka last November in Bulawayo. Lewis must believe he can score big if he gets a start. In 14 T20I innings, he has four 50-plus scores: 100, 91, 125 not out, and 51.
The century did not drain Lewis. It motivated him further. His reflexes had not grown tired. Woakes delivered a sharp bouncer to his head, but Lewis ducked swiftly out of danger at the last moment. The fact that England wanted him to play a rash stroke was not lost upon the Trinidadian. He would not yield.
Surprisingly, Lewis had not yet hit a six and the match was 40 overs old. He was undeterred. With Holder delivering big blows at the other end, Lewis understood he did not yet need to switch on Beast Mode. But soon he would unbuckle himself and enjoy some range hitting along with his captain. He reached 150 in no time, in fact his third fifty came in just 26 deliveries.
His success rubbed off on the team, too. Unlike in Bristol, when West Indies folded their tent with more than 10 overs still to go once Gayle had been run out, here they were switched on. One revealing statistic: in Bristol, West Indies batsmen ran just three twos; there were 19 doubles at The Oval. This was also the first time West Indies had recorded two 100-plus partnerships against a top-ranked country in ODIs since 2004 against South Africa. All this allowed Lewis-Holder to smash a record 87 runs in the five-overs segment between 41 and 45, which set up a challenging total - albeit one England overhauled with the help of Duckworth-Lewis-Stern.
Regardless of the result, Lewis should bookmark his Oval epic. Can he make this a habit now? Many talented young men have shown the spark over the last two decades only to fade away quickly.
It could be a moment of awakening for Lewis and other young West Indies batsmen in one-day cricket: that you can play time, rotate the strike, play purposefully before unleashing the power they are known to possess. With the right mindset, the right strokeplay, the right decisions, things can fall into place.