Brian Lara became Test cricket's leading run-scorer five overs and 22 minutes into the second day of the Third Test against Australia at the Adelaide Oval yesterday. As he claimed ownership of yet another of the game's foremost batting records, he hinted that there was more to come.
"As long as I stay an asset to West Indies cricket, stay fit and injury free, I'm going to carry on," he said. The extraordinary 36-year-old left-hander completed the 12 runs he required at the start of play with a fine leg-side deflection off Glenn McGrath for a single to surpass another left-hander, the Australian Allan Border's 11,174, that had stood at the top of the select list since Border's retirement in 1993 after 156 Tests. This is Lara's 121st. For the seventh time in his innings, the crowd rose to acclaim another landmark while several of the Australians were soon there to shake his hand or pat him on the back. It was a measure of the esteem in which he is held in these parts.
Lara was finally bowled by his old adversary, McGrath, for 226, attempting an audacious swat over point. He stroked 22 fours from the 298 balls he faced. His innings was more than half the West Indies total of 405, easily their highest of the series that Australia have already secured with wins in the first two Tests.
Australia were putting it into proper perspective as they passed 200 for the solitary loss of Matthew Hayden for 47 when they lost their captain Ricky Ponting and the left-hander opener Justin Langer in the last, extended half-hour. Ponting was lbw for 56 to Dwayne Bravo, who also claimed Hayden.
Langer soon followed one short of a hundred. Aiming to pull the pacy but erratic Fidel Edwards in the final over, he gloved a leg-side catch to the wicket-keeper. Australia ended the day 229 for three.
That the bowler who conceded the record run, and eventually removed Lara, should be McGrath was appropriate. The tall, slim, mean Australian has now dismissed him 15 times in the 46 innings they have met in Tests, dating back to 1995. No one has claimed Lara as many times.
Lara received praise from Australia's cricketers off the field as well as on it. Langer said: "I love watching Lara bat - he's more than a champion, he's a legend of cricket."