Flu-struck Lara still not to be sneezed at

West Indies 373-6 v MCC
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The Independent Online

Brian Lara sent a message of intent to England before the forthcoming Test series by scorching to an 89-ball century against the MCC here yesterday.

Brian Lara sent a message of intent to England before the forthcoming Test series by scorching to an 89-ball century against the MCC here yesterday.

The West Indies captain defied a bout of flu to take his first-class run tally to 686 in his last four innings against an attack including the England pacemen Matthew Hoggard and Simon Jones. Lara was unbeaten on 113 from 103 deliveries after hitting 18 fours and two sixes before he retired ill at the tea interval.

Lara shared a third-wicket stand of 196 with the opener Devon Smith, who made a sedate but impressive 142 as the West Indies reached 373 for 6 from 93 overs. But the watching England chairman of selectors David Graveney was heartened to see Hoggard and Jones prove their fitness after returning from knee and foot injuries respectively. Jones had the lengthier lay-off, missing the final two Tests against New Zealand. He looked rusty at times but bowled three spells and picked up the wicket of Chris Gayle (43) and finished with figures of 16-1-75-1.

Hoggard also had three spells, and his most productive time was in the final session when he dismissed Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Dwayne Smith on his way to 17-6-28-2.

Graveney will watch the duo on the second day today before reporting back to his fellow selectors.

Lara elected to bat, and Gayle and Devon Smith hit 90 in 24 overs before the former edged Jones to Alastair Cook at first slip. The England Under-19s captain was a relieved figure, having spilled a chance from the same player two balls earlier.

Dwayne Bravo made only four before he was stumped by Riki Wessels off Min Patel after trying to work the ball on the leg side. But then Lara and Devon Smith dominated the afternoon session. Smith needed 89 balls to reach his 50 but only another 67 to move to three figures with his 16th boundary.

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