Cricket: Lara takes the laurels again

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The Independent Online
Leicestershire 403

Warwickshire 254

IT IS two centuries in a row for Brian Lara, who followed the 147 he made on his debut with 106 against Leicestershire yesterday. This was what the crowd of new members had come to see, but they got something else besides. Leicestershire's rangy off-spinner, Adrian Pierson, ploughed through the rest of Warwickshire's batting, taking a career-best eight for 42.

Warwickshire saved the follow-on by exactly one run, but it may take a third successive century by Lara to give them a chance to save the game, and that could be too much to expect from Warwickshire's new main man.

Lara's innings started on a cool, murky Midlands morning and he did not look at home. His team needed runs from him because too much slack bowling on a wicket that was generous to seamers let Leicestershire reach 403. He played the 11 balls before lunch, including a freak rising delivery from David Millns that plainly shocked him, without scoring.

The first run from Lara came off an inside edge facing Alan Mullally, and there was another of those soon after. But these loose shots had been punctuated by three fours, one off his hips to square-leg, one straight, and one square-cut to the cover boundary.

By mid-afternoon the 50 partnership with Roger Twose had come up. Half an hour later Lara reached his own 50 off 70 balls with seven fours and the crowd had settled back to receive their money's worth. He looks smaller in the flesh than on the box. As the bowler begins his run, he glances down at his bat, and, as the ball is delivered he drops quickly into a crouch and then springs into the shot.

Most of his runs today came in front of the wicket. Lara does not tickle, he strikes; he is violent and elegant. Between lunch and tea he scored 77 runs off 35 overs and when he returned to the wicket he treated the Leicestershire bowlers to the usual cruel punishment.

Millns, for example, set three men in the covers to stop the square cut and Lara beat them three times in one over to move from 82 to 94. The century came off 130 balls with 17 fours. In five overs after tea Lara had scored 29 and the slaughter was ended only by the hidden hand of the SPCB (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Bowlers).

The first time Lara sprang down the pitch to drive Adrian Pierson, he was caught and bowled. Pierson looked as surprised and delighted as a Tory councillor who had retained his seat.

Pierson, aged 30 and 6ft 4in tall, was dropped by Warwickshire in 1992 and now he took the next seven wickets in 58 balls. He bowled Asif Din, who had put on 72 with Lara while scoring 11 himself. The pitch, which had been generous to seamers, was taking sufficient spin for Pierson to induce a collective collapse of nerve in the Warwickshire batsmen and the next four were caught close to the bat. Small managed to clear the square but was caught by the sightscreen.

At the beginning of the day, Leicestershire's captain, Nigel Briers, had asked his tail for another 50 runs to put Warwickshire under pressure. They got 48; despite the great Lara, it was enough.

(Photograph omitted)