Cricket: Lara shows his class

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West Indies 252-7 v India

In spite of Brian Lara's ninth Test hundred and his fifth-wicket partnership of 142 with Roland Holder, India scored most of the psychological points when the rain-ruined fourth Test finally got underway here yesterday after three blank days.

With only two days now available, a result was out of the question. However, the expected West Indian run feast at the Antigua Recreation Ground which had yielded Lara's Test record 375 three years ago did not materialise.

After Courtney Walsh won the toss and chose some batting practice prior to the fifth and final Test in Georgetown in 10 days' time, the West Indies collapsed to 82 for 4 just after lunch before Lara and Holder restored the balance with their positive approach.

Even so, Lara took 25 balls before getting off the mark and the Indians never wavered when he finally started to find the middle of the bat with typically devastating effect. He was finally caught behind off the persevering fast bowler, Venkatesh Prasad, for 103 and Holder followed soon after, edging a cut into the same gloves of wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia off Anil Kumble's bouncing top spinner after making 56.

Three quarters of an hour after tea the West Indies were 238 for 6 and India were through to the tail.

Lara came to the wicket after the openers, Stuart Williams and Sherwin Campbell, had been dispatched cheaply. Williams edged his third ball from the tall fast bowler Abey Kuruvilla to first slip and Campbell was run out by Ajay Jadeja's lightning pick-up and direct hit on the bowler's stumps from extra cover.

Even before Lara could score, Shivnarine Chanderpaul had been taken at short leg off bat and pad from Kumble for 24 and, when Carl Hooper once more flattered to deceive and was caught at slip for 26, the West Indies were faltering at 82 for 4.

By then Lara was into full swing and Holder stroked the ball confidently from the start. After his circumspect beginning, Lara gathered 69 off 95 balls between sessions and, disregarding the supposed nervousness of the 90s, advanced to his first hundred in seven Tests against India by sweeping Kumble for four and then lifting him over long on for six next ball.

The 3,000 or so on the ground who had witnessed the left-hander's memorable record against England in 1994 anticipated a continuation as a matter of course, but Prasad disappointed them by removing Lara for the third successive time in the series. In for three hours 35 minutes, Lara's boundaries were his six plus 11 fours. Understandable dejection was etched on his face as he left the ground.

Fourth day; West Indies won toss

WEST INDIES - First Innings

S L Campbell run out 10

S C Williams c Tendulkar b Kuruvilla 0

S Chanderpaul c Laxman b Kumble 24

B C Lara c Mongia b Prasad 103

C L Hooper c Azharuddin b Joshi 26

R I C Holder c Mongia b Kumble 56

C O Browne not out 4

I R Bishop c Dravid b Joshi 17

Extras (lb5 nb7) 12

Total (for 7) 252

Fall: 1-0 2-32 3-40, 4-82 5-224 6-230 7-252.

Bowling: Prasad 19-4-43-1; Kuruvilla 17-1-50-1; Kumble 31-13-66-2; Joshi 19.4-6-64-2; Ganguly 3-0-24-0..

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

INDIA: V V S Laxman, A D Jadeja, R S Dravid, *S R Tendulkar, S Ganguly, M Azharuddin, N R Mongia, A Kumble, S Joshi, A Kuruvilla, B K V Prasad.