Cricket / Fifth Test: Larruping lefty had given fair warning

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ASKED prior to the season what his objectives might be, Brian Lara matter-of-factly replied that it would be nice to get a century or two or 'maybe even a double or a triple'. It was neither arrogance, nor braggadocio. It was simply a statement of immense confidence.

Like all the great batsmen, the dapper Trinidadian left-hander has long since made a habit of high scoring. He was 19 when, captaining a West Indies youth team against the touring Indians in 1989, he compiled 186, establishing a precedent that was a forewarning to the world's bowlers.

He converted his maiden Test century into an epic 277 against Australia at Sydney last year and he has been true to his word this season. His three centuries in the five domestic Red Stripe Cup matches were 180 against Jamaica, 169 against Guyana and 206 against Barbados. He followed that with his 167 in the second Test in Georgetown, and now this.

Like all the great performers, he completely dominates centre stage. His 277 in Sydney was made out of 450 while he was at the wicket. As he overwhelmed Jamaica's bowling, led by Courtney Walsh, in the Red Stripe Cup, he compiled 180 while his partners managed a mere 18 between them. As he went past one century, then another and approached the third here, he shared partnerships worth 362 with Jimmy Adams and Keith Arthurton. Neither are

exactly plodders yet their combined contribution to the effort was 106: less than a third.

For all his runs - a record 715 in the Red Stripe Cup and 423 in the preceding Tests - Lara was not satisfied he had done himself justice entering this match. Too often, he knew, he had not been undone by the bowling but rather by his own impetuosity.

There seemed to be an element of disrespect creeping into his play, always a dangerous trait. He was bowled or leg before three times trying to whip balls off his legs of neither the appropriate length or line. He was hitting through the air too much for his own good and his dismissal in the second innings in Barbados, when his presence was essential to the West Indies saving the match, smacked of irresponsibility.

This was his last chance to put all that right and to collect the big one he had promised himself before the season. The need to reconstruct the innings after the early loss of the openers may have been a personal blessing in disguise, for it prompted an unusually careful start. It was obvious he meant business and when he does, anything is possible.