Lara hits top gear to give West Indies lift

West Indies 274-8 Kent 183 (West Indies win by 91 runs)

At 10.15am, 30 minutes before the scheduled start of play, everything appeared in place at the New County Ground in Beckenham. The Kent players were finishing off their preparations, the sun was out and the ground was virtually full. The only problem, and it was quite a major one in the context of the day, was that the star attractions, Brian Lara and West Indies, were missing.

At 10.15am, 30 minutes before the scheduled start of play, everything appeared in place at the New County Ground in Beckenham. The Kent players were finishing off their preparations, the sun was out and the ground was virtually full. The only problem, and it was quite a major one in the context of the day, was that the star attractions, Brian Lara and West Indies, were missing.

When a gateman phoned the pavilion at 10.30am to say that a group of West Indians had arrived, there was a sigh of relief. They turned out to be the steel band. Lara's side finally arrived at 11 o'clock after a two-and-a-quarter-hour coach journey from their Kensington hotel.

Kent accommodated their embarrassed opponents by allowing them to bat first, and a quick change ensured that only four overs were lost. But the chaotic start seemed to affect Chris Gayle, who was bowled having a heave at the second ball of the game. This was the last setback for West Indies in their penultimate warm-up game before the NatWest Series, and the London traffic proved more of an obstacle than Kent, who were comfortably beaten by 91 runs.

West Indies' imposing score of 274 in 48 overs was built around a partnership of 106 between Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan. After a delightful 23 from Dwayne Smith containing five glorious boundaries, the pair carefully guided the tourists to the 30th over.

Chanderpaul, whose driving down the ground stood out, was the first to reach his half-century. But his dismissal, well caught by Michael Carberry at deep square leg, changed the tempo of the West Indian innings.

With the applause of 7,000 spectators ringing in his ears Lara arrived at the crease and immediately began to entertain. After watching his first five balls carefully, the captain smashed the next through mid-on for four.

This started a period of play which more than made up for the West Indies' tardy time-keeping. Lara smashed his first ball from James Tredwell out of the ground for six and struck seven sumptuous fours in his 53 balls.

But the spinner ended Lara's 100-run stand with Sarwan when the latter sliced a catch to short third man. Lara followed in Tredwell's next over, and West Indies failed to capitalise on the work of the three senior batsmen. The England seamer Martin Saggers was the main beneficiary with figures of 5 for 51.

West Indies' pace attack bowled with plenty of hostility and made the most of an excellent pitch which offered plenty of pace and bounce for those who bent their backs. Only Ed Smith looked capable of handling this type of bowling but it took the former England batsman 31 overs to score his 54 runs.

Smith's patience finally gave way when he flashed at a ball from Smith to give Ridley Jacobs the fourth of his six victims. The only disappointment for Lara was that his bowlers conceded 25 wides and 13 no-balls. Against better opponents this lack of discipline will cost matches.

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