Cricket: Lara lands third successive century

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The Independent Online
Leicestershire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .403 and 135-5

Warwickshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .254 and 206-7

Match drawn

WITH one exception, this was a fairly dismal performance by Warwickshire, who escaped with a draw after being out-played by Leicestershire in every session except those in which the one exception was batting. There is not even a ripple of applause for guessing the exception. The incredible Brian Lara story goes on.

Having inspired a Warwickshire victory on his Championship debut, Lara applied his extraordinary talent to saving his new side from defeat as an eager Leicestershire attack steadily picked off his partners. He remained at the crease for just short of three hours until play closed, with Warwickshire, who had been 119 for 5 at the start of the final 20 overs, 206 for 7, chasing 285 from 57 overs.

In doing so, he recorded his second century of the match and his third in three Championship innings for his new employers.

Local statisticians are seeking absolute verification, but they are thought unlikely to unearth another instance of a player opening his first-class career for the county with three consecutive hundreds.

Taking his world-record 375 in Antigua into account, the left- hander from Trinidad has scored 748 runs in his last four first-class innings, at an average of 249.33. He makes superlatives redundant.

Needless to say, it was rather more than a head-down, block-it-out performance. On a couple of occasions, to protect a more vulnerable aide, he declined easy singles. Otherwise he followed his natural instincts. He hit 22 boundaries, cutting the ball to the fence with a flourish and without hesitation when he had the chance. Leicestershire will count themselves unlucky, however, for he did offer them one chance which, had it been taken, may well have been their cue to claim 24 points. On 78, with Warwickshire 148 for 6 and 12 overs still to come, Lara went for a squarish drive against Alan Mullally, for once failed to middle it but was dropped by his compatriot Phil Simmons, of all people, wide at second slip.

It was another talking point in an absorbing game, in which the fast, bouncy wicket prepared by Steve Rouse, the new groundsman here, was an important factor.

After a first Leicestershire innings given backbone by Nigel Briers's 154, Warwickshire avoided the follow-on by one run on Saturday evening.

Only 14 balls were bowled on Thursday but there was no contriving a platform for a positive result and Leicestershire, after forcing the pace yesterday morning, declared 35 minutes after lunch. Conditions aided the pacy David Millns to reduce Warwickshire to 61 for 4 but the off-spinner Adrian Pierson could not reproduce his first-innings impact and heroic support from Asif Din, batting with a runner, and Neil Smith, for 15 overs, helped Lara, with 120 not out, to save the day.