Lara warns England: 'I am better than when I broke world record'

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The Independent Online

Brian Lara gave Michael Vaughan a chilling warning on the eve of England's Test series against the West Indies. Lara, the world's No 1 batsmen, is not only desperate to win back the Wisden Trophy but, more worryingly, he also feels he is a better player now than when he broke Sir Garry Sobers' world-record score of 365 not out at the Recreation Ground, Antigua, in 1994.

"I think I am a better player now than I was when I scored 375 against England," Lara said at the series launch. "I am mentally stronger, far more mature and less of a flash in the pan, which is what some people thought then."

It is common practice for sportsmen to make statements like this but Lara has the figures to back up his claim. In the last 12 months the West Indies captain has been in the best form of his life. During this period he has scored an incredible 1,595 runs at an average of 69.35.

These runs have not been amassed against weak opponents with poor bowling attacks. It has been Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka who have felt the full force of the Trinidadian's strokeplay.

Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Shaun Pollock and Muttiah Muralitharan are the bowlers who have been flogged to all parts, not some medium-pace dobber from Bangladesh.

Losing the world record has also helped Lara. This honour now rests on Matthew Hayden's broad shoulders following his 380 against Zimbabwe in October last year.

"I think Hayden's 380 has been tremendous for me," Lara said. "I was woken up at three o'clock in the morning and told the news, and then I lay in bed thinking. I think this may have given me the impetus to go on and achieve even greater things. By this I don't necessarily mean breaking records but by leaving a greater impact on the game than just one or two innings."

Lara, in his second term as captain of the West Indies, has been handed the responsibility of turning his side into a major power once again. And if the West Indies intend to achieve this, they need to defeat England over the coming weeks. "This is a special series for me because it may be my last series against England at home," he said. "But most importantly it is because the Wisden Trophy is not in our hands.

"It hurt to lose it to England in 2000, having held it for such a long period of time. England are our biggest rivals and this was a bitter moment, not only for myself, but also for all the other members of the team.

"I realised England were our No 1 foe in world sport on my first tour of England in 1991. Sir Vivian Richards was captain of the West Indies and I immediately got a feeling of the competition that existed between the two teams. The trophy is currently in England's hands and we will be fighting to get it back."

WEST INDIES SQUAD (First Test v England, Thursday, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica): B C Lara (capt), C H Gayle, D S Smith, D R Smith, S Chanderpaul, R O Hinds, R R Sarwan, R D Jacobs (wkt), R L Powell, A Sanford, T L Best, C D Collymore, F H Edwards.