Lara smashes magical 400 to rewrite history

West Indies 751-5 dec England 171-5

On 18 April 1994, Brian Lara, at the age of 24, produced one of the greatest innings in Test cricket. The 375 runs the Trinidadian scored against England at the Recreation Ground in Antigua allowed him to break Sir Garfield Sobers' world record. It turned him into a superstar and changed his life.

On 18 April 1994, Brian Lara, at the age of 24, produced one of the greatest innings in Test cricket. The 375 runs the Trinidadian scored against England at the Recreation Ground in Antigua allowed him to break Sir Garfield Sobers' world record. It turned him into a superstar and changed his life.

Yesterday, only six days away from the 10th anniversary of this magnificent achievement, Lara produced an innings of even greater brilliance on the same piece of turf and against the same opposition. Lara's genius climaxed at 11.43 Eastern Caribbean Time when he swept Gareth Batty for four. This boundary, his 42nd, took the left-hander on to 384 and allowed him to reclaim the world record which was pinched from him by the Australia opener Matthew Hayden six months earlier.

Passing Hayden's score of 380 failed to sate the world's greatest batsman and he went on to become the first batsman to score 400 in a Test innings.

On reaching this milestone Lara declared. The total of 751 for 5 is the second largest score the West Indies have posted and the highest conceded by England. In his 13 hours at the crease Lara was involved in two stands of over 200. The second, with Ridley Jacobs, who scored his third Test century, was worth 282, the West Indies' highest sixth-wicket partnership.

England's reply was pretty pathetic. Michael Vaughan was unlucky to be given out caught behind but the dismissals of Marcus Trescothick, Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe had an end-of-tour feel. Trescothick edged a horrible waft, Butcher was bowled driving loosely and Thorpe flicked a simple catch to fine leg, reducing England to 98 for 5. Andrew Flintoff and Geraint Jones batted more responsibly but England have two tough days ahead if they wish to keep intact their unbeaten record in this series.

Flintoff edged to Lara at first slip off Ramnaresh Sarwan but Lara allowed the ball to escape from his grasp after seemingly controlling it and Flintoff stayed on. But England still need 381 to avoid the follow-on.

But this day, along with the previous two, belonged to Lara. When he regained the world record, he jumped in the air and whirled his bat over his head before taking off his helmet and looking to the heavens to give thanks. The scenes that followed were far less chaotic than those of a decade ago when thousands of ecstatic fans swarmed on to the pitch, and this allowed Lara to cherish the moment. After shaking the hand of each England player he was congratulated by the Antiguan Prime Minister, Baldwin Spencer. Lara then raised his bat again to each section of the ground before falling to his knees and kissing the pitch in the same way he had done 10 years before.

To play one innings of such magnitude is enough to put you high in the list of all-time greats but to produce two is one of the most remarkable achievements in sport. Reclaiming this world record is nothing like a triple-jumper leaping one centimetre further. To post the highest score in Test cricket Lara needed to spend 732 minutes concentrating under a scorching sun against a bowling attack which had dominated him for the previous month.

To bat for such a long period of time twice in a career not only takes enormous skill and stamina, it requires unbelievable desire and control. That is why this innings was in many ways better than that of 10 years ago.

After Lara scored 375 here, I felt he would never be able to play an innings of such perfection again. Not because Lara was not good enough, of course he was. I just felt that he would try to get there quicker than before and this would lead to him making a mistake. How wrong I was. It took Lara 546 balls to pass Hayden's score, 16 more than when he first broke the record.

The Lara of now is a different animal to a decade ago. Dealing with agents, the world's media and the thousands of people who constantly want a piece of his time matured him quickly and toughened him up. There was a spell in the mid-Nineties when all this attention turned him into quite an arrogant and unpopular character.

But he has mellowed. The expectations that come with being captain and star player of an underperforming team are still there but Lara now appears to handle these pressures better and has returned to the laughing, likeable bloke he was.

This more relaxed approach has allowed him to return to his best. Before this series Lara said he felt in better form than in 1994 but the first three Tests did not back up this claim. Some suggested he was now a declining force but this innings may have changed their view.

Lara began the third day needing 68 to overtake Hayden. With the third new ball only four overs away, there was an early flurry of runs but this was followed by a lengthy period of consolidation. Stephen Harmison again bowled with great heart and occasionally extracted steep bounce from a pitch that appears to be getting quicker.

With Matthew Hoggard off the field ill, Flintoff took the new ball and the pair tried to frustrate by banging the ball in short with a man out on the hook. England went up for a catch when one such delivery clipped something on the way through to Jones but replays showed it had touched Lara's shoulder.

The locals became animated by the tactics but Lara kept picking up the easy runs and ticking off milestones. This showed Lara's desire once again to top the list. Jacobs was playing some booming shots and it would have been easy for Lara to adopt the same carefree approach.

Harmison changed ends but was quickly ruled out of the attack after running down the middle of the pitch on his follow-through for the third time. It was not the most glamorous way of signing off his tour but with 23 wickets in the series he has much to feel proud of.

LARA'S PLACE IN HISTORY

HIGHEST INDIVIDUAL TEST INNINGS

400* Brian Lara, West Indies v England, St John's, 12 April 2004

380 Matthew Hayden, Australia v Zimbabwe, Perth, 10 October 2003

375 Brian Lara, West Indies v England, St John's, 18 April 1994

365* Garry Sobers, West Indies v Pakistan, Kingston, 1 March 1958

364 Len Hutton, England v Australia, The Oval, 23 August 1938

SCOREBOARD FROM ST JOHN'S

FOURTH TEST

WEST INDIES V ENGLAND

ANTIGUA (Third day of five): England are trailing the West Indies by 580 runs with five first-innings wickets in hand

West Indies won toss

WEST INDIES -- First Innings

Overnight 595 for 5 (Sarwan 90, Gayle 69)

Runs 6s 4s Bls Min

B C Lara not out 400 4 43 582 732
R D Jacobs not out 107 3 8 207 307

Extras (b4 lb5 w2 nb5) 16
Total (for 5 dec, 202 overs) 751

Fall: 1-33, 2-98, 3-330, 4-380, 5-469.

Did not bat: T L Best, P T Collins, C D Collymore, F H Edwards.

Bowling: M J Hoggard 18-2-82-0, S J Harmison 37-6-92-1, A Flintoff 35-8-109-1, S P Jones 29-0-146-1, G J Batty 52-4-185-2, M P Vaughan 13-0-60-0, M E Trescothick 18-3-68-0.

ENGLAND -- First Innings

Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
M E Trescothick c Jacobs b Best 16 0 3 34 71
M P Vaughan c Jacobs b Collins 7 0 0 17 19
M A Butcher b Collins 52 0 7 83 128
N Hussain b Best 3 0 0 15 19
G P Thorpe c Collins b Edwards 10 0 2 35 62
A Flintoff not out 37 0 5 93 117
G O Jones not out 32 0 4 82 109

Extras (lb2 w1 nb11) 14
Total (for 5, 58 overs) 171

Fall: 1-8, 2-45, 3-54, 4-98, 5-98.

To bat: G J Batty, M J Hoggard, S P Jones, S J Harmison.

Bowling: P T Collins 13-3-37-2, F H Edwards 10-1-41-1, C D Collymore 13-3-32-0, T L Best 4.3-1-20-2, R O Hinds 9.3-4-17-0, R R Sarwan 7-0-18-0, C H Gayle 1-0-4-0.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and D B Hair (Aus).

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