Rare failure for Lara as relentless Gayle moves on

South Africa 588-6 dec - West Indies 440-3
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The Independent Online

A poster beneath one of the scoreboards proclaims the Antigua Recreation Ground as "the home of Test cricket's major batting records" but, while others have added to the list in the fourth and final Test, the batsman responsible for the two most famous landmarks could only muster a scratchy four this time.

His 36th birthday might have been an incentive for Brian Lara, whose 375 in 1994 and unbeaten 400 last season, both against England, were the highest scores in Tests, but the celebrated left-hander spent 21 uncertain deliveries before he could get off the mark with a boundary off Monde Z ondeki who soon had him caught at the wicket, cutting, eight balls later without addition on the fourth day of the match.

Following his dismissal of Ramnaresh Sarwan for 127 to a low catch at cover an hour into play, it was welcome consolation for the enthusiastic 22-year-old fast bowler who had taken a pasting from left-handed opener Chris Gayle on the previous day.

Yet they were only minor setbacks for the West Indies as they duly swept past the follow-on target of 388 to be 440 for 3, 30 minutes into the second session with Gayle, resuming at 184, overhauling one West Indian after another on the ledger of highest scorers in Tests to be 270, a marathon including three sixes and 34 fours. His partner, the captain, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, was on 20.

Gayle was clearly intent on making up for his failures in his previous four innings in the series that yielded 12 runs. Choosing the method he knows best to regain form and confidence, he raced to his first 50 off 34 balls but his approach became progressively more measured as he appreciated the easy-paced nature of the pitch.