Cricket: Following in giants' footsteps: Graeme Wright, a former editor of Wisden, on Lara's exalted place among old masters

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The Independent Online
THESE things have a habit of passing me by. When Graeme Hick scored 405 not out for Worcestershire against Somerset in 1988, I left London for Alderney with Hick just past 200, and arrived on the island to be greeted by John Arlott with the news that he had passed 400. Yesterday morning I hardly gave a thought to the fact that, 100 or so miles up the M40, Brian Lara, the West Indies and Warwickshire run- machine, was a mere 111 not out. Silly mistake. These big run-getters go about their business in a relentless way.

Look at Bradman and Ponsford, for example, and just out of interest 12,102 spectators were there at the Sydney cricket ground on 4 January, 1930 to watch Don Bradman hammer Queensland's bowlers for 100 in 104 minutes, and 200 in 185 minutes. Then they all went home, Bradman presumably with reluctance. Back after the rest day, along with close on 8,000 others, he raced to 310 by lunch, and when the innings was closed at tea his score was a world record of 452 not out, made in 415 minutes without a real chance.

Do not think that the runs came on a batsman's paradise either. This was New South Wales' second innings. Bradman had been caught behind for three in the first, and Queensland were finished off for 84 in their second innings to lose by 685 runs after being eight runs behind on the first innings. Bradman scored 1,586 runs in 11 games that season for an average of 113.28, so the force was obviously with him.

As it was with Victoria's Bill Ponsford in 1927-28 when his Sheffield Shield innings in December alone produced scores of 133, 437, 202, 38 and 336. Poor Queensland were the victims on this occasion also, as Ponsford surpassed his own previous world best (429 v Tasmania) with 437 in 621 minutes. In the 1923 match against Tasmania which brought Ponsford's first 400, Victoria became the first team to exceed 1,000 runs in first-class cricket. Tall scores were a big feature of Australian life in those days.

Hick's 405 not out took him 555 minutes, while, at the other end of the 400 scale, the world record until yesterday occupied 635 minutes. Like Lara, Karachi's Hanif Mohammad had warmed to his task with a Test-match triple- hundred in the West Indies (337 for Pakistan in Bridgetown in 1957-58). Having come to the crease late on the first day of Karachi's match against Bahawalpur in January 1959, he was run out going for his 500 off the last ball of the third day. It was the only mistake he made. Lara made sure he did not repeat the error yesterday.