Cricket: Lara finally bats with due care and attention

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Australia 243 West Indies 353-7

It was too late to reclaim long lost supremacy, but first Brian Lara, then Carl Hooper, joyously revived the waning reputation of their own, and West Indian, batsmanship on the second day of the fifth and final Test yesterday.

Lara chose the last match of what has been an appalling series for him and the team to accumulate his first hundred for seven Tests. The foundations of his chanceless 132 were built with the care and attention he failed to apply to his earlier failures and was completed with an exhilarating exhibition of strokes.

His partner throughout his stay of nearly three and three quarter hours was another left-hander, the opener Robert Samuels, who shared a third- wicket stand of 208.

Samuels' solid 76 was the ideal foil for Lara and when they were dismissed in the space of half an hour in the final session, Hooper arrived to illuminate the remainder of the afternoon with his batting. He stroked 10 boundaries every bit as breathtaking as Lara in an unbeaten 57 that carried the West Indies to 353 for 7, a lead of 110 in spite of the customary late collapse.

Just as Curtly Ambrose's bowling had provided the inspiration for a West Indies team 3-1 down in the series on the first day, so did Lara's batting yesterday.

Its climax was a calculated assault on Shane Warne that lasted no more than 30 minutes either side of tea but was one of those epic confrontations in sport between two champions that will forever be etched on the memory. Warne had been strangely kept idle after six tidy overs before lunch, even as Lara and Samuels were ensuring a powerful West Indies position.

When Mark Taylor, Australia's captain, eventually beckoned his blond hero back into the attack 15 minutes before the tea interval, Lara was 92 and, as he commented later, his "momentum was growing".

He greeted the first ball with a thumping pull to the mid-wicket boundary and raised his eighth Test hundred, and his second against Australia, with a classic cover drive for his 18th four in Warne's next over.

And so the plunder continued, as it had done in the one-day World Series match at the same venue three weeks earlier. Then Lara had taken 27 from two Warne overs, now he dispatched him over long-on for six and took six other boundaries that so flummoxed the bowler he responded with a rare bouncer over his head.

Then, in a flash, it was all over and Warne had the final word. Lara fell to a catch to wicket-keeper Ian Healy offering a defensive push to a nondescript ball wide of off-stump when six fielders were on the boundary ropes.

Samuels soon followed to a catch to silly point off glove from Warne but for the remainder of the afternoon Hooper held the spotlight despite the habitual West Indies collapse at the opposite end, three wickets falling from nine balls for one run.

His hooks and pulls off the fast bowlers were handsome and disdainful, his three off-drives to the boundary in the same over from Paul Reiffel matched anything Lara had conjured up earlier.



Second day; Australia won toss

AUSTRALIA - First Innings 243 (M G Bevan 87no, M E Waugh 79; C E L Ambrose 5-43).

WEST INDIES - First Innings

(Overnight: 25 for 0)

S L Campbell c Healy b Reiffel 21

R G Samuels c M E Waugh b Warne 76

S Chanderpaul c Reiffel b McGrath 3

B C Lara c Healy b Warne 132

C L Hooper not out 57

J C Adams c Healy b McGrath 18

P V Simmons c M E Waugh b Reiffel 0

C O Browne c Warne b Reiffel 0

I R Bishop not out 5

Extras (b4 lb10 w1 nb26) 41

Total (for 7) 353

Fall: 1-30, 2-43, 3-251, 4-275, 5-331, 6-332, 7-332.

To bat: C E L Ambrose, *C A Walsh.

Bowling (to date): McGrath 24-5-64-2 (nb4); Bichel 18-1-79-0 (nb12); Reiffel 20-5-65-3 (nb8, w1); Warne 18-7-55-2 (nb1); Blewett 6-2-19-0; S Waugh 7-1-26-0 (nb1); Bevan 5-0-31-0.

Umpires: P Willey (Eng) and D B Hair (Aus).