Lara reigns before storm

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The Independent Online

Brian Lara, named last week in the match-fixing scandal, answered his critics yesterday with a century in West Indies' opening match of their tour of Australia.

Brian Lara, named last week in the match-fixing scandal, answered his critics yesterday with a century in West Indies' opening match of their tour of Australia.

Lara claimed 108 from 107 balls in a one-day charity match against the ACB Chairman's XI in Perth, Western Australia. West Indies piled on 276 for 2 from 50 overs, with the opener Sherwin Campbell finishing unbeaten on 111, before the match was abandoned because of rain.

Lara, a former West Indies captain, was accused by an Indian bookmaker of accepting money for under-performing in two one-day matches. He denies the allegations in an official Indian report. He would not meet with journalists after yesterday's charity game but issued a statement through the team management.

"I'm trying to focus on the series, but it's been a tough week," he stated. "Everything will come to fruition, I hope. Right now I have a responsibility to West Indies cricket not to let anything affect me. I have to pull on the blinkers and go out and do my best by getting runs."

A storm erupted during the interval, forcing the umpires to abandon the match before the locals, whose team included the retired Test batsman David Boon, had the chance to bat.

Lara, accused by the Australian media of being overweight, said he was happy to have had some batting practice before West Indies' first serious match, against Western Australia, which starts tomorrow. "It felt good. The first couple of practice sessions in Perth have been a build-up to this and I've tried to use the practice well to get my mind set for the games ahead," Lara said.

"This start was very significant for us. We're looking to get the team back on a good footing. We did badly in England [losing the Test series 3-1] and Kenya didn't go too well either. We need to be competitive, so even a good performance in a festival game is a boost. Losing is not something we want to experience."

In Paarl, South Africa, Mark Richardson returned to the New Zealand side with a patient century, helping the tourists to 273 for 5 on the opening day of their three-day match against Boland. Richardson, who played no part in the recent one-day series against South Africa, batted throughout the day to finish unbeaten on 118.

The spinner Paul Wiseman sprained an ankle during the New Zealanders' morning warm-up and had to be replaced by Scott Styris. He is expected to recover in time for the Test series, which begins on 17 November.

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