Lara carries his bat into history: Jon Culley saw the West Indian batsman sweep away record after record in an innings of 501 not out at Edgbaston

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The Independent Online
BRIAN LARA's incredible march through the pages of cricket's record books took the brilliant West Indian batsman to new heights of greatness on the Edgbaston Test ground in Birmingham yesterday evening.

Only 49 days after compiling the world record Test match innings of 375 against England in Antigua, Lara, 25, eclipsed the record of Pakistan's Hanif Mohammad for the highest individual score at any level of first class cricket, anywhere in the world. Hanif scored 499 for Karachi against Bahawalpur in Karachi in January 1959. His line in Wisden is now displaced by Lara's 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham.

After almost eight hours at the crease, interrupted by a full day's play lost to rain on Saturday, the left-handed Lara made history at 5.30pm, with just one ball of the County Championship match's scheduled span remaining, when he dispatched a gentle delivery from John Morris across a sun-dappled outfield to the extra cover boundary.

It was his 62nd four, which, added to ten sixes, gave him another record - the highest number of boundaries in a single first class innings, which had stood since 1904 at 68, accumulated by Peter Perrin for Essex against Derbyshire at Chesterfield. And Lara's 390 runs scored in the day - he had been 111 not out at the outset - left behind another ancient milestone, set when Charlie MacCartney made 345 in one day for Australia at Trent Bridge in 1921.

When the moment arrived in Antigua, a massive crowd flooded the field, hoisting the little man's 5ft 8in frame on to willing shoulders. When he came down it was to be embraced by Sir Garfield Sobers before the players assembled in a guard of honour so that he could leave the field in the manner of conquering gladiator. No such pageantry was possible yesterday but then the making of cricket history cannot be stage-managed, even when, like Lara, you have a public relations machine to supervise your every move.

Barely 1,000 spectators witnessed the opening of what had promised to be a day of little consequence in a dead match. A few more took their seats later, as word spread, but not nearly as many as will claim to have been there, 20 years from now. A few clambered over the advertising boards to offer handshakes as Lara raised a triumphant bat, but most of the applause was from players.

Lara explained with quite unnecessary modesty that he did not yet consider himself worthy to sit alongside Bradman, Hobbs, Sutcliffe and the rest. 'The records are coming so fast that they're not really sinking in, but this does not make me a great cricketer,' he said. 'I still have a lot to learn.'

He might have been out more than once, having been bowled by a no ball on 10 and dropped behind the wicket on 18 in Friday's wind and drizzle. He gave another chance at 238 yesterday, through the stretching fingers of mid-off, and one more at 413, which fell to earth in front of mid-wicket.

'I struggled to the first hundred on Friday, when I felt I was losing my form. I only played really well before lunch today.' During that session, he rattled an astonishing 174 runs off 119 balls.

After playing for his county against Surrey in today's Benson and Hedges Cup semi-final, he is taking a brief holiday at home in Trinidad. 'I'm hoping I can slip in unnoticed,' he said, asked what sort of welcome he could expect from the cricket-mad islanders. Some hope.

Into the record books, page 40