BRIAN LARA reached the heights of batting immortality yesterday, becoming the first man to score seven centuries in eight first- class innings.
The young maestro from Trinidad was 111 not out at the close of play, making up superbly for missing the chance of hitting six successive centuries when falling on 26 against Middlesex last week.
Durham's accumulation of the second-largest total of their short first-class history merely delayed Lara's feat.
Durham reached 556 for 8 on an increasingly benign pitch before deciding, in mid-afternoon, that Warwickshire's demoralised bowlers had suffered enough. In the circumstances, given that Durham's attack is hardly the most frightening, the record for Lara seemed almost a formality. But as the sky darkened and the wind whipped up, the little left-hander was strangely ill at ease.
Ushered in by the early dismissal of Dominic Ostler, Lara greeted his first ball with an inelegant slog in the direction of long- on, which was so badly timed that it might have given Anderson Cummins a return catch had the Barbadian bowler even half expected it. Then, having got to 12 without further mishap, he was bowled by a Cummins yorker. To his relief, umpire Peter Wight signalled no-ball.
Cummins gave way to Simon Brown but Lara's troubles continued. First ball after tea, on 18, he escaped again when Chris Scott unaccountably dropped a routine wicketkeeper's chance. Next ball, Lara almost played on and the one after that he nudged dangerously close to first slip. But he survived and prospered, alongside Roger Twose, in a partnership that put on 115 before Twose got himself tucked up pulling Brown and gave David Cox, Durham's debutant left-arm spinner, a boundary catch.
'That was one of my least-convincing innings,' Lara said later. 'I didn't know it was a no ball from Cummins when I played my shot and the dropped catch was the turning point. I knew I was on for another record and I wanted to stay there on such an easy-paced pitch.'
After a start delayed 45 minutes by rain, John Morris, Durham's double-centurion, returned to the pavilion in anti-climax, top-edging the sixth ball of the day to mid- wicket without adding to his score. Later, at 422 for seven, having been 365 for three, Durham looked in danger of under-achieving, but an eighth-wicket record of 134 between Cummins and David Graveney, the latter making his first half-century for the county, left them in fine fettle.
LARA'S RECORD RUN OF CENTURIES 375 West Indies v England (Antigua) 147 Warwickshire v Glamorgan (Edgbaston) 106 Warwickshire v Leicestershire (Edgbaston) 120* Warwickshire v Leics (Edgbaston) 136 Warwickshire v Somerset (Taunton) 140 Warwickshire v Middlesex (Lord's) 111* Warwickshire v Durham (Edgbaston)
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