Sublime recovery for Lara

Click to follow
NO MATTER what happened, this day was always going to be about Brian Lara. Even a splendid century by Sherwin Campbell and a gritty 71 by Shivnarine Chanderpaul could not upstage the audacity of the Trinidadian's sublime knock of 62, made in only 76 balls. Two days ago at Canterbury a doctor's gentle probings had pronounced him under the weather. Yesterday, at Lord's, he looked in peak fitness and full of confidence.

Doubtless there are still those expecting some sort of divine punishment to have been meted out on Lara for treating his supreme talents so casually of late. If there are, they would have been thoroughly disappointed.

True, he did start shakily - scratching around for 11 balls before getting off the mark - and was lucky to survive an lbw appeal second ball, after padding away a straight one from Phil Tufnell. If this was a crisis of confidence the hard evidence soon disappeared as all the old shots began to unfold.

Before the start, his preparation was not exactly redolent of a man keen to purge himself of lackadaisical tendencies. Not for him the kind of long net that someone like Graham Gooch would put himself through, with bowlers coming off full runs. No, Lara in keeping with that other sublime left-hander David Gower, had less than a dozen throw-downs without pads. All were cleanly struck to the on-side, which perhaps had its significance later on when he whipped and slapped Phil Tufnell for three leg-side fours in one over, to kick-start his innings.

Lara is clearly a man who backs his ability to the hilt. Tufnell - who had bowled a searching spell from the Nursery End, slowing even Campbell's earlier lack of inhibition to a walk - was hit out of the attack as Lara found gaps with ease

Kevin Shine, who had earlier dismissed Carl Hooper lbw to one that kept low, then returned, only to see a player widely touted to be in crisis, casually dismiss him for 13 runs, including a huge six that sailed high over midwicket into the Mound Stand. Just to confuse all those who think him one- dimensional he then patted Shine's next over back for a maiden. This was a big cat toying with small prey.

However Tufnell returned to have his revenge as Lara was bowled round his legs trying to paddle the ball finer than the line would allow. Chanderpaul followed soon after, again bowled by Tufnell, to a ball that kept low out of the rough. It was a slowly ground-out knock; a cautious pestle and mortar, to Lara and Campbell's whirring blenders.

In fact Campbell deserved plenty of plaudits himself. Since his arrival in May he has become a more complete player, looking increasingly accomplished at the crease. Back then, uncertain of his place, he tried to hit most of his deliveries through the off-side. Test cricket has been his making, the patience required of building rather than acquiring Test innings has shown him the importance of scoring in other areas using off both feet.

His dismissal, chopping-on to Tufnell, was the kind of luck a fielding side need when batsmen are in such irresistible form. It was also the first of three wickets for Tufnell who bowled with great control.

Only when the second new ball was taken did Middlesex have much to show for their day as first Jimmy Adams, and then Junior Campbell fell in quick succession to Dion Nash and Kevin Shine, the latter having already dismissed Carl Hooper earlier in the day. By then though, Lara had left his mark.