Cricket: Lara's electric strokeplay lightens gloom

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The Independent Online
Australia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .503-9 dec

West Indies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .488-5

BRIAN LARA added statistical substance to an innings that required no further embellishment on the fourth day of the third Test here yesterday.

Illuminating another grey, damp day with the same breathtaking volley of strokes with which he had reached his maiden Test century the afternoon before, the dapper 23-year-old left-hander kept the electronic scoreboard as busy keeping up with his rapid advance as announcing the string of records he passed on his way to an eventual 277.

His innings carried the West Indies to within 15 runs of Australia's 503 for 9 declared on a day shortened by 78 minutes by early rain and late fading light.

As the records fell, Lara had his mind set on only one. 'When I got to 265 I started counting down,' he said afterwards, referring to Test cricket's highest score of 365 not out by the greatest West Indian left-hander of all, Gary Sobers. 'I thought I could end the day on 300 plus and I would have a pretty good chance coming back tomorrow,' he said.

He did not get the chance. An hour and a quarter into the final session he placed the off-spinner, Greg Matthews, to cover's right and took off for a single he judged to be available. He was well down the pitch when his partner, Carl Hooper, sent him back but it was too late. Damien Martyn's sharp pick-up and return to the wicketkeeper, Ian Healy, beat his sliding attempt to regain his crease by a foot or so.

He returned to a resounding reception from a crowd limited to 7,581 by the weather, but which had again been spellbound by his brilliance, the details of which were revealing. He struck 38 fours to every area of the outfield, from fine leg to third man, and used every stroke except the genuine hook. He hit no more than half a dozen of the 372 deliveries he faced through the air and those only by design and offered a solitary chance in his stay of 474 minutes, to Steve Waugh at gully, cutting at Merv Hughes with the second new ball when he was 172.

Continuing from 121, he added 156 from 211 balls off which he counted another 23 fours. At the opposite end his partners scored 74 with five fours between them.

At the end he had become the highest scorer in all Tests between the teams, surpassing Doug Walters's 242 for Australia at the same ground in 1968-69.

His was also the fourth highest Test score by a West Indian, behind Sobers's 365 not out against Pakistan in 1958, Lawrence Rowe's 302 against England in 1974 and Vivian Richards's 291 against England in 1976.

Only two batsmen, both English, have scored more in an innings against Australia: Len Hutton, 364 at The Oval in 1938 and RE Foster, 287, also in Sydney in 1903-04.

Lara extended his third-wicket partnership with his captain, Richie Richardson, from 217 to 293 before Richardson's hook off Hughes was not hit well enough to clear the fielder on the backward square-leg boundary. Richardson's 109, which proved valuable support for Lara, was his 15th Test century and his eighth against Australia. Lara and another left- hander, Keith Arthurton, added a further 124 of which Arthurton's share was 47 before he snicked an off-break from Matthews to the wicketkeeper.

Lara, by this time, was counting down to his goal when he was out in the only way that seemed likely, leaving the match to fade away in anti-climax on the final day.

(Fourth day; Australia won toss)

AUSTRALIA - First Innings 503 for 9 dec (S R Waugh 100, G R J Matthews 79; C L Hooper

3-137).

WEST INDIES - First Innings

(Overnight: 248 for 2)

* R B Richardson c Warne b Hughes. . . . . . . . . . . . . .109

B C Lara run out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277

K L T Arthurton c Healy b Matthews. . . . . . . . . . . . . .47

C L Hooper not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

J C Adams not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

Extras (b4 lb7 nb6 w1). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

Total (for 5). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .488

Fall (cont): 3-324 4-448 5-481.

To bat: J R Murray, I R Bishop, C E L Ambrose, C A Walsh.

(Photograph omitted)

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