By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport at The Oval
If David Graveney had woken up in a different mood when the selectors met to pick a team for the first Ashes Test, Graham Thorpe's career may have ended on the high note it deserved.
A second innings century to save the Oval Test and give England the draw required to win the series would have been a fitting finale for a man who had been striving without success to beat the Aussies since his debut in 1993.
Thorpe's best batting was always done in a crisis. When England's ship entered stormy waters, it was his steady hand on the tiller that guided the team home so frequently.
There have been stormy times, too, in Thorpe's personal life when it was difficult to focus on cricket at all.
It caused him great anguish, for example, during his darkest period of 2001-02 to pick up newspapers and read one-sided accounts about his marriage.
"My ex-wife did three or four articles about me in a tabloid newspaper which was very sad," Thorpe told BBC Sport.
"I've been betrayed in a number of ways. But to open a newspaper and read that stuff was very hard.
"I was trying to come to terms with something which was very painful and I was separated from my children at the time.
"I would have gone through this depressing period of my life anyway but it was worse because it was public and I didn't want to go out of my house and be seen in public."
It was ironic that Thorpe's marriage break-up occurred after he began sacrificing some aspects of his playing career to spend more time with his wife and two young children.
6,744 runs, average 44.66, 16x100, 39x50, highest score 200 not out, 105 catches
Only nine players have scored more Test runs for England
2,380 runs, average 37.18, 21x50, highest score 89,
"I started off being quite driven and narrow-minded in wanting to succeed and I developed into being more focused on family and children.
"Eventually, I tried to put family first, making the decision to come out of the South Africa tour in 1999-2000 and I realised that cricket was not the be-all and end-all."
Thorpe's recently-published autobiography begins in the summer of 2002, when, at the centre of his personal maelstrom, he walked away from cricket completely.
It took more than a year for him to return to the England team, but when he did he made the most of the final chapter of his England career.
By then, he had met his new partner, Amanda. She helped change Thorpe's outlook on life in general and cricket in particular.
"She just wanted me to play cricket.
"She just thought it would do me a world of good to go out there and try my best and I discovered so much more during my comeback in the past two-and-a-half years.
"People say 'here you are at The Oval, do you hold any envy or bitterness about not playing in this Test?'
"But I can look forward to the changes in my life. Baby Emma was born last month and every day has been a bonus because I have her and I have Amanda.
"If Emma had been born with any deficiency then winning the Ashes and me scoring a hundred wouldn't mean a jot."
Thorpe is in his final season at The Oval
Thorpe will take Emma, Amanda and his step-daughter Kitty - he is proud that she calls him Daddy - to Sydney in January as he takes up a new role as assistant coach for New South Wales.
He will be there for three months and may return the following year if things go well.
He says he has a "free calendar" next summer - his playing days at Surrey will end at the end of the month.
And after doing some analysis for BBC Five Live this summer he will be "available for as much media work as possible".
The future for Thorpe is bright and it is uncluttered by the pressures of playing cricket and dealing with a troubled personal life at the same time.
That suits him just fine.