St John’s: England had pushed Brian Lara so hard, they should have known what was coming. A run of poor scores, three defeats in as many Test matches under his captaincy, Lara’s cup of misery was full.
On Saturday, at the Antigua Recreation Ground, the Trinidadian left-hander took charge after the West Indies had lost their first wicket at 33. For the next seven sessions, Lara punished the English bowlers for daring to challenge his status as one of the very best of all times.
Unbeaten on 313 at stumps on the second day, Lara moved to 390 at lunch on Monday. Half an hour after resumption of play, he swept off-spinner Gareth Batty for a single to backward square-leg to become the first man in cricket’s 126-year-old Test history to reach 400.
At the end of that over, Lara declared the West indies first innings closed. The scoreboard showed: West Indies 751 for five, Brian Lara 400 not out. “It’s hard to believe,” Lara said after being given a guard of honour by his teammates as he walked off at lunch. “It’s a great feeling. It’s dampened a bit by the series result but we are going to press for a win.”
It was at this very ground and against the same opposition, almost 10 years ago, that Lara had made 375 to break Sir Gary Sobers’ record. Aussies Matthew Hayden bettered that mark with a 380 against Zimbabwe in Perth last October.
Hours before Lara had waltzed past his record and broken the 400-barrier, Hayden admitted he expected Lara to reciprocate and was preparing to return a favour by having a second congratulatory phone conversation in six months.
“I had had no expectation of breaking the record and it was a tremendous honour,” Hayden said in Brisbane. “I was incredibly impressed with the effort he (Lara) made when I did break the record. He said: ‘Well done, I’m glad it went to an Australian’.
“I know it’s unusual time frames but it would be great to be able to return that favour and give him a call and say ‘well done’,” said Hayden.