Cricket: Lara's presence provides inspiration: Warwickshire seek clean sweep after comfortable Benson and Hedges Cup success

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The Independent Online
BRIAN LARA set the ball rolling two months ago and now his very presence promises a season of unprecedented triumph for Warwickshire.

The world's best batsman contributed just eight runs to a six-wicket victory against Worcestershire in Saturday's Benson and Hedges Cup final.

But Lara's influence on the supporting cast was there for all to see - and it could propel them to further success. 'I think Brian inspires the team because everyone wants to show him they are good players as well,' Paul Smith, who won the man of the match award, said.

Lara arrived at Edgbaston in a blaze of publicity after his record Test innings of 375 against England. And as he reeled off a string of Championship centuries, culminating in the world record 501 against Durham, the likes of Smith could have been overshadowed. Instead, they are performing better than ever.

'We are playing good cricket,' Smith said. 'People are coming to watch Warwickshire because of that and because we have Brian Lara in our side.

'I've been with the club for 13 seasons but this is the most exciting time I've known. We've always been able to beat the best teams but we never did it consistently enough.

With the Benson and Hedges Cup won for the first time in the club's history, Warwickshire can now look forward to winning all four domestic prizes.

They are through to the quarter-finals of the NatWest Trophy, a competition they won last year, led the Sunday League before their first loss last week, and are fourth in the Championship.

'We now have all the inspiration we need after this victory,' Lara said. 'I hope the other players feel the same as me - the Cup is just the start.'

Despite Lara's staggering Championship form, he has scored only two one-day half- centuries this season. 'I keep telling everyone this is a team game,' he said. 'I'm not disappointed I didn't score many runs in the final. The important thing is that the team won.'

'Brian is the genius in the pack but we've got plenty of good, hard-working pros in our side,' Dermot Reeve, the Warwickshire captain, said. 'Hopefully, we'll be there when the other trophies are handed out.'

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