Cricket: 'True son of the game' on top of world: Graeme Wright, a former editor of Wisden, recalls the illustrious predecessors in the place now held by Trinidad's Brian Lara in the cricket history books

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IT WAS idiosyncratically appropriate that the first landmark Brian Lara should pass yesterday, on the way to his world-record score of 375, was Andrew Sandham's 325 for England against the West Indies at Kingston in April, 1930. Not only was it the highest individual score in England-West Indies Tests, but the record books show Sandham's triple hundred as the first in Test cricket.

Whether or not it was is another matter, for contemporary reports suggest that Sir Donald Bradman took the honours during his own world-record innings of 334 for Australia against England at Leeds in July that same year. The uncertainty arises because Sandham's innings came in a representative match for MCC against the West Indies which was given Test status only at a later date.

In his match report of that 1930 Ashes Test at Leeds, Neville Cardus wrote that 'Bradman beat the record for the highest innings by any Test match batsman: it was good that Foster's score (287 for England at Sydney) had been passed not by a stonewaller hoarding up runs covetously, but by a true son of the game.' That same sentiment is equally true today of the 24-year-old Trinidadian who has eclipsed Sir Garfield Sobers' 36- year-old record of 365 not out at Kingston in March, 1958.

Not without good reason, much is made of Lara's youth, yet it is worth remembering - not to mention that it is frightening to contemplate - that Bradman and Sobers were both only 21 when they made their record scores and Sir Leonard Hutton was 22 when he took 364 off Australia's thin attack at The Oval in 1938. Sobers, moreover, was making his first hundred in Test cricket, albeit against a Pakistan attack stripped by injuries to their only two front-line bowlers.

At least Lara had the decency to stop at 277 in his first Test hundred, a real cracker against Australia at Sydney 15 months ago, as well as confirming his rich talents with that glorious 167 against England in Guyana. Bradman's notice of intent in 1930 was even more awesome: 131 in the first Test at Nottingham, 254 in the second at Lord's, and then his 334 in the third. There must have been sighs of relief when he failed to get anywhere near 400 in the fourth Test.

England's Wally Hammond made similar progress in his assault on Bradman's record. Having ended the Australian leg of MCC's 1932-33 'Bodyline' tour with 101 in the final Test at Sydney, he began the series against New Zealand with 227 at Christchurch prior to giving the Kiwi bowlers the charge at Auckland.

Hammond's 336 not out was made in just five hours 18 minutes and contained a Test-record 10 sixes (three off successive balls from Jack Newman) and 34 fours. New Zealand played an 18-year-old schoolboy leg- spinner, Doug Freeman, in that Test, and his figures of 1 for 91 from 20 overs could have been a lot worse.

When Sobers scored his 365, in 10 hours 14 minutes with 38 fours, Fazal Mahmood's figures were 2 for 247 from 85.2 overs and Khan Mohammad's 0 for 259 off 54 overs. If they care to look at the West Indies' total in that match, 790 for 3 declared, England's bowlers might feel they got off lightly from Lara's record feat.

True, they had to bowl at him for almost 13 hours, but in that same West Indies-Pakistan series of 1957- 58, the West Indians had been bowling for 16 hours 10 minutes in the first Test at Bridgetown before finally removing 23-year-old Hanif Mohammad for 337.

It was the longest first-class innings ever, as once was Hutton's 13 hours 17 minutes for his 364. Hutton, of course, was batting in a 'timeless' Test and could afford to be, as Wisden said, 'a little monotonous by reason of his grim, determined dominance'. His record innings took almost twice as long as Bradman's did eight years earlier.

Still, had Hutton been stumped when 40, it would have been different, just as it would have been at Lord's in 1990 if Graham Gooch had been caught behindwhen 36. Instead, Gooch went on to 333, made in almost 10 and a half hours with three sixes and 43 fours. Whereupon, as if to emphasise his form, he hit 123 in the second innings.

Just to show that triple hundreds are not essentially a young man's preserve, Gooch made his a few days past his 37th birthday. But even he has to give way to Sandham, who was only a few months off his 40th birthday, was using someone else's bat and wearing borrowed boots, when he scored his 325 in 1930. Perhaps it helped not knowing he was in a Test match.

----------------------------------------------------------------- TEST TRIPLE CENTURIONS ----------------------------------------------------------------- 375. . . . . . . . . .B C Lara WI v Eng (Antigua, 1994) 365* . . . . . . . . .G S Sobers WI v Pak (Jamaica, 1957-58) 364. . . . . . . . . .L Hutton Eng v Aus (The Oval, 1938) 337. . . . . . . . . .Hanif Mohammad Pak v WI (Barbados, 1957-58) 336* . . . . . . . . .W R Hammond Eng v NZ (Auckland, 1932-33) 334. . . . . . . . . .D G Bradman Aus v Eng (Headingley, 1930) 333. . . . . . . . . .G A Gooch Eng v Ind (Lord's, 1990) 325. . . . . . . . . .A Sandham Eng v WI (Jamaica, 1929-30) 311. . . . . . . . . .R B Simpson Aus v Eng (Old Trafford, 1964) 310* . . . . . . . . .J H Edrich Eng v NZ (Headingley, 1965) 307. . . . . . . . . .R M Cowper Aus v Eng (Melbourne, 1965-66) 304. . . . . . . . . .D G Bradman Aus v Eng (Headingley, 1934) 302. . . . . . . . . .L G Rowe WI v Eng (Barbados, 1973-74) * = not out -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photographs omitted)