The West Indian captain made 101 as the tourists reached 327 for 6 at the close in reply to Griqualand West's 271 all out. Lara's 36th first- class century was scored off 126 balls with 16 fours and two sixes.
The left-hander played some sparkling strokes and hit 23 off one over from the young medium-pacer Andre Botha, including four fours and a six. Lara battled out a duel with South Africa's Test off-spinner Pat Symcox, who was the most impressive of the Griquas' bowlers, but it was another off-spinner, Martyn Gidley, who claimed his wicket.
Tied down after reaching his century, Lara drove Gidley hard to cover.
Hid fellow left-hander Shivnarine Chanderpaul made 42 and helped Lara add 107 for the third wicket, and vice-captain Carl Hooper was unbeaten on 64 at the close of play.
Lara said before play that the recent pay dispute had helped rather than hindered his side. "What we've gained... is a tighter team unit," Lara was quoted as saying in the Sunday Independent in Johannesburg. "Those five or six days in London made us a very close team unit. That is an area where we have to improve to beat South Africa."
Lara led a confrontation over pay with the team management during which he was dismissed as captain, but later reinstated.
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