The family of the late Captain Tom Moore who became a global hero for his fundraising efforts during the coronavirus pandemic rang the five minute bell at Lord's prior to the first Test between England and New Zealand on Wednesday.
The World War II veteran died aged 100 on February 2 after raising nearly £33 million ($45 million, 37.4 million euros) for healthcare charities by completing 100 lengths of his garden before his century birthday in April last year.
In a sign of how far England has recovered during a year that has cost over 127,000 lives in the United Kingdom, 6,500 spectators were on hand to see the family ring the historic bell.
It is the first time since September 2019 that England have played in front of spectators at home.
The crowd are made up largely of Marylebone Cricket Club members, who were given priority for tickets.
Priority for any tickets left after MCC members -- in their famous bacon and egg coloured ties -- were given their allocation was given to spectators attending with under 16-year-olds.
In a further sign of some sense of normality returning to sporting events there were even ticket touts outside the ground.
Those queuing in orderly fashion under beaming blue skies were cock a hoop to be returning to watch live cricket.
- 'The end of cricket' -
William Marks, 30, who works in the shipping industry, said it was the perfect storm - the weather combined with the opposition being "one of the best teams in the world" New Zealand.
In keeping with the delightful conditions he was wearing long shorts.
"I'm so excited. It has been a long time, so I'm delighted to be back watching live sport," he told AFP.
"It's a great day and feels like a long time in the making.
"Just being part of a crowd and watching live sport, you can't beat it, and seeing the players in the flesh again -- you can't recreate that on TV.
"It won't be quite like normal but it's better than nothing."
Katie Banks, a 51-year-old solicitor, said she was ecstatic to be out and about after the ennui of being stuck at home through three lockdowns.
"I feel quite safe enough. I miss having fun and talking to people and having something interesting happening in my life," she told AFP.
"To share the experience of sport is really great. This is only the very beginning.
"People will be happy to be there, there will be the normal crowd noise."
Wine merchant Edward Clarke, 56, was dressed more formally than Marks ensuring protection from the sun with a Panama hat, a dark blue blazer but eschewed a tie.
"It's surreal and relieving," he said.
"It's good for the cricketers mostly and to have something to play to.
"I'm double-jabbed (two doses of vaccine) so I suppose I feel quite reassured about the whole thing.
"I'm of the belief that you can't stay locked up forever.
"If this doesn't happen, it will be the end of cricket. It's a difficult balance.
"It will be interesting to see how the size of the crowd can make the noise, the dynamics of it."