Lara closes in on Test scoring record

Brian Lara dismissed widespread notices that his powers were on the wane, based on previous unconvincing form and even more unconvincing umpiring, with a typically commanding, unbeaten 203 on the opening day of the third and final Test yesterday.

It carried the dashing West Indian left-hander, whose 400 not out against England in Antigua last year is Test cricket's highest individual score, to within sight of yet another batting record. At the close, he needed only 12 more runs to claim the game's leading aggregate, now held by the Australian Allan Border with 11,174 runs. "I've had 15 years in Test cricket and anybody who spends that sort of time and is any sort of a decent batsman is going to be in and around certain records," Lara noted matter-of-factly.

He has been "in and around" records throughout his career. His eighth double-hundred in his 121st Test carried him past England's Wally Hammond on the all-time list and behind only the phenomenal Australian Don Bradman's 12 in 53 Tests.

He came into the Test with 148 runs in nine previous innings in the Australian season, for the World team in the ICC's SuperSeries and the earlier Tests. At least twice in the Tests he was the victim of a poor decision.

Lara's innings was the backbone to a first day West Indies total of 352 for seven. The 36-year-old Trinidadian walked out to a standing ovation from a crowd of just short of 20,000, sensing it to be his last bow in Australia. They rose repeatedly to acclaim him as he passed one landmark after another.

Lara went through an uncertain period before lunch, during which he survived a close leg-before decision as he padded away a delivery from Andrew Symonds at 15. It was a hint that it was to be his day. He scored 184 here in the corresponding Test five years ago.

He spent an hour and a half and 67 balls assessing the conditions and bowling before lunch, when he was 27. Satisfied with his findings, he took charge for the rest of the day. He had been in for slightly under six hours at the close, stroking 20 fours off 266 balls. No other batsman scored better than the second Test century-maker Dwayne Bravo, with 34, which helped in a partnership of 116.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the captain, also offered Lara support in a stand of 68 before he edged a catch to the keeper off Symonds. Denesh Ramdin, the wicketkeeper, hit 27 in a seventh -wicket partnership of 70.