It should have been Phillip Hughes’ 26th birthday, an occasion for friends and family to cheer another Test recall.
Instead they were celebrating Hughes’ life, tragically cut short when he was struck by a bouncer last Tuesday at the SCG.
Captain Michael Clarke, a day after wiping away tears while delivering a prepared statement on behalf of Australia’s cricket team, was again a source of poignancy on Sunday.
Clarke wrote a personal tribute, describing Hughes as the most loyal and generous-spirited teammate and saying how proud he was to describe him as the brother he never had.
“Happy bday bro. Will love you forever. It has been the hardest few days of my life,” Clarke tweeted at midnight.
Clarke and Aaron Finch posted a series of evocative photographs on social media later in the day, as the birthday wishes came thick and fast from teammates and strangers alike on Twitter.
Clarke and his teammates have returned to their homes but will descend on Hughes’ hometown Macksville, on the NSW mid-north coast, for Wednesday’s funeral.
The desperately unlucky death of a man in his prime has been confronting for all cricketers.
Games in Sharjah and Colombo – featuring Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and England – went ahead but with no sense of normality.