Cricket: Lara strikes fastest 100 of the season: Batsman's 72-ball century

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IS THERE no stopping the man? Not content with putting himself in sight of another first-class record, Brian Lara scored the fastest hundred of the season off 72 balls at Taunton yesterday to help secure Warwickshire a six-wicket win over Somerset.

It was the fifth consecutive century from the 24-year-old West Indian, who began his run with the big one - a world-record 375 against England in Antigua last month. Since then, the left-hander rounded off April by taking 147 off Glamorgan at Edgbaston, where, earlier this month, he scored 106 in the first innings against Leicestershire and followed up with an unbeaten 120 in the second.

With 748 runs from his last four innings already under his belt, yesterday he had added another 136 to that total before Mushtaq Ahmed, the Pakistan leg-spinner, managed to prise him loose.

Having had a spectacular start to his career with Warwickshire, next on the agenda comes the chance of equalling another first- class record, this one concerning the most hundreds made in successive innings. The figure stands at half a dozen and is shared by CB Fry, who set the standard at the turn of the century, Don Bradman in the 1938-39 season and Mike Procter (1970-71).

Lara's chance will come when Warwickshire begin their Championship match with Middlesex at Lord's on Thursday. 'It's great to have one world record,' Lara said yesterday, 'but now I'm so close to another I'll be doing all I can to get it. Hopefully, the weather will hold to give me a chance and if it does I'll be trying my hardest.'

The century against Somerset was, according to Lara, 'the most satisfying of the hundreds in England because it helped us win the game. Getting 18 points was important and I'm delighted to have played a big part in that. I still can't quite believe what is happening to me. The interest since I arrived in England has been tremendous and I'm just glad to be in good enough form to meet expectations.'

Lara's hundred included 11 fours and a six and his 136 came from 94 deliveries as Warwickshire achieved their victory target of 321 off 53.4 overs on a rain-interrupted day.

The Trinidadian scored 99 out of a fifth-wicket stand of 126 with Asif Din and responded to two no- balled beamers from Graham Rose by twice hitting the Somerset seamer out of the ground off more orthodox deliveries.

Warwickshire looked to be facing a near-impossible task when rain wiped out the afternoon session and they needed 234 off a minimum of 31 overs when play resumed after an early tea.

But, after Dominic Ostler's 75- ball half-century had laid the foundations, Lara made light of the task, despite needing treatment for a neck injury at one point, and Warwickshire eventually eased home with 20 balls to spare.