Home / Volley / Cricket / BC Lara’s great GOAT debate: Lara’s Magnificent Seven Innings revisited—Pt 2

BC Lara’s great GOAT debate: Lara’s Magnificent Seven Innings revisited—Pt 2

Edgbaston, 501, June 1994: ‘Rambo’ Brian batters Durham

“Cricket is a visual art,” CLR James assures us in Beyond a Boundary. “(…) [F]irst and foremost a dramatic spectacle, [i]t belongs with the theatre, ballet, opera and dance.”

Extrapolating, one can see a major Brian Lara innings as akin to a full-length feature film and truly appreciate a comment offered on Australian TV to the effect that Lara is ‘not just one of the finest batsmen but one of the most aesthetically pleasing to ever grace the game’.

Photo: West Indies cricket great Brian Lara acknowledges supporters during his historic stay at Warwickshire.
(Copyright Graham Chadwick/PA Photos)

Cast as a near invincible hero in 1994, the Prince of Port-of-Spain had starred in the West Indies innings win over England in the Second Test at Bourda in mid-March, slamming a brilliant 167 off just 210 balls. He had then gone on to claim the world record for the highest individual Test innings in Antigua a month later.

Having already been contracted to play county cricket for Warwickshire in the summer, in May, he posted five three-figure scores in his next six innings, including two in the match versus Leicestershire.

KFC Munch Pack

Next up was Durham. Dermot Reeve, the then Warwickshire captain, has revealed that, on the morning of the third day of the match at Birmingham, Lara approached him to inquire what his plans were. Assured that there would be no declaration until he was out, the Prince of Port-of-Spain perceived it as an opportunity to add another record to his growing collection.

A century, a double century and a triple century in Tests already on the books against his name, he had obviously set his sights on adding a quintuple century by overhauling Hanif Mohammad’s 499, then the first-class mountaintop.

Did he really think he could make 500 runs in a single innings? What arrogance! Well, in anyone else it would have been arrogance. With Lara, it was not; the arrogant are those who create legitimate expectation and then let the side down. Not BC Lara in 1994.

His goal set, he worked out in broad outline the targets he needed to achieve to keep himself on track.

Photo: Brian Lara models off the field during his stint as a county cricketer in England.

From 111 not out at the end of the first day he was at the crease, the rampaging Lara drove, cut, pulled, hooked and, when the line and the field placing required it, glanced delicately to leg to progress rapidly to 255 by lunch on the next day.

So far, so good.

Another 163 runs came in the session between lunch and tea, the boundaries from midwicket all the way around to third man having been relentlessly peppered with bullets from the self-repeating rifle that was his bat. He had sped to 418.

Only the home stretch left.

After the second interval, the onslaught abated slightly, a mere 79 runs coming off his bat by the start of the day’s last over. He had already batted for almost eight hours, facing over 400 balls and blasting 61 fours and 10 sixes along the way.

Into his shell he went—temporarily!

Lara knew, Durham discovered, what circumspection was. He was on 497. Within three runs of his self-imposed finish line, he offered defensive strokes to John Morris’ first three balls. Morris then had the gumption to dig one in at him. Perhaps surprised by such temerity, Lara mistimed his attempted pull. The ball cannoned into his helmet.

Two balls now left in the day’s play. And in the match.

Lara smashed the fifth ball contemptuously through the covers. He turned on his heels and removed his helmet. He raised his arms and his bat in triumph. He then sauntered off the field to savour his new status.

More than 20 records, including the highest individual score in English cricket and the highest individual score by a West Indian in England, had fallen on that tremendous journey to the top, top of the first-class with 501 and first in Tests with 375.

Were his skin not the same colour as Denzel Washington’s, he would surely have earned himself at least an Oscar nomination in that annus mirabilis of 1994…

…and incontestably sealed the deal in 2004.

Photo: Brian Lara poses in front of the scoreboard after his first class record 501 not out for Warwickshire.

The Caribbean, 1999: 213, 153*, 100: Goliath denies David

Bowling hell hath no fury—ask Australia’s Dean Jones—like an Ambrose warned. And, as Steve Waugh’s 1999 Australians discovered to their cost, batting hell hath no fury like a Lara cornered.

Cricket’s country vs country records reveal 116 completed Tests played between Australia and West Indies. The former have won 58 and lost 32, with 25 draws and one tie. What those bare-bones records conceal, however, is the occasion towards the end of the last century when the smouldering West Indian left-hander, his back against the wall, burst into flame and became a raging conflagration that threatened to consume the might of Australia’s world champions. Raw.

Lara told Wired868 Editor Lasana Liburd in a 2018 interview that he had no choice but to produce his best against Australia on that historic occasion because “I was under so much pressure as an individual.”

More accurately, perhaps, under pressure as captain. After being promoted—prematurely, in my opinion!—to the captaincy at the expense of Courtney Walsh in 1998, Lara had managed 417 runs with three half-centuries in nine innings in a 3-1 defeat of England in the Caribbean.

Setting off on his first overseas tour with the official leadership mantle, he refused to let the selected squad go on to South Africa until the WICBC agreed to raise players’ pay. The Board eventually capitulated.

In South Africa, Lara’s better-paid troops failed to win a single Test. The skipper’s 10 innings yielded a modest 310 runs with another three half-centuries.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s “Prince of Port of Spain” and iconic West Indies cricketer Brian Lara.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Manan Vatsyayana)

Back home to take on Waugh’s Australians, the WI collapsed for a mere 51 in the second innings of the First Test in Port-of-Spain to lose by 312 runs. Six losses on the trot.

Your ‘contract’, Captain Lara was told by the WICBC, will come up for review at the end of the next two Tests. It never did.

Lara’s magnificent double-century in a 322-run first innings 5th-wicket stand with Jimmy Adams pulled the home side level in Jamaica.

In the second innings in Barbados, the skipper again stood heroically in the breach, nursing the tail from a precarious 248 for 8 to 311 for 9 for a historic one-wicket win. In the 14 minutes he spent at the crease, number 11 Walsh, famous with ball in hand but notorious as cricket’s record maker of ducks, faced a mere five balls while Lara successfully farmed the strike to complete a splendid, unbeaten 153.

With an unlikely 2-1 series win in the offing and occupation the best option to protect the totally unexpected lead, a liberated Lara declined to take his foot off the gas. In the last Test in Antigua, he hit a thunderous 84-ball hundred in the first innings, with 15 fours and three sixes.

But by the end of Day Two, replying to 303, his team was struggling at 197 for six … 

…and all out for 222 early on Day Three.

Photo: West Indies cricket great Brian Lara at work.
(Courtesy Guardian.com)

Earning themselves an 81-run lead on first innings, Waugh’s men grabbed that inch and converted it into a mile-wide 176-run series-levelling victory.

And thus did the Australian Goliath dodge the rock from Lara’s not-so-little two-and-a half pound sling.

And stop a little key from opening up a mighty door.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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  1. i gave my cricket team this story a couple of weeks ago..THAT is Genius.

  2. Shoaib wasn’t as lethal as his pace suggested, probably because of the nature of wickets he played on in Pakistan.

  3. I haven’t seen Viv live but I have no doubt he scores very high there too.
    Shoaib Akhtar comes in here there too btw.

    • Sir Viv was excellent, as well as the three Ws, but Lara is in a category of his own. For me it’s not only about scoring runs. It is also about composure on the pitch, sportsmanship and being able to motivate teammates to get the best out of them. BCL did it all. He is the GOAT of cricket. (I don’t care for him on a personal level but he is one of the greatest athletes in the world.)

  4. Of all the athletes I’ve seen live, I’d put Lara alongside the Brazilian Ronaldo as far as commanding a stage and decimating competitors.
    That means as far as those two qualities go, I have him ahead of Messi, Ronaldinho, Zidane and the Portuguese Ronaldo.

    • Lasana Liburd u saw Ronaldo Messi zidane live?

    • Kyon yep. I covered football in UK for over two years. And there was the 2006 World Cup which I watched to the final.
      Covered the Confederations Cup final too in 2013 when Neymar took apart Spain. Did a Clasico when Messi scored a 35 yard free kick on Casillas although Real win.
      Blessed to see a lot of great football live. I count Henry and Okocha among some top players I saw live too.

    • Lasana Liburd you did not see the CRUYF OF 74.

    • Bruce Aanensen may have been difficult for him since he was born after that time.

    • He made me fall in love with Dutch soccer. That 74 team were great. And contained both Wim Rijsbergen and Theo De Jong. Coaches of 2006

    • Bruce Aanensen I didn’t see him play live but I remember my thoughts when I saw extended footage of him. And that was: My god Cruyff can cross with his weaker left foot like Beckham can cross with his right!
      Funny how you see so many highlight reels of someone and learn so little. Cruyff was clearly a genius.

    • Lasana Liburd if there are brilliant geniuses Lasana he was one.

    • Lasana Liburd weaker left foot. I would say his strong and stronger foot. The brother had no weaknesses.. .. on the ground he was a master, in the air, he was deadly.
      But the genius that is number one in my book: Sir Ronaldinho. All those guys; Messi, Ronaldo, Cryuff, Zidane, Pele are just fantastic. But Ronaldinho! He is in a class by himself. His competitors greeted and hugged before and after games… that really shows royalty and respect.

    • I can’t doubt Ronaldinho’s genius but it wasn’t something I saw live.
      I saw him live at the 2006 World Cup against Japan, Ghana and France and he didn’t leave a strong impression. But I could tell he was very much a foot soldier to Ronaldo in that set up. He played like one at the time anyway.

  5. I heard many talk about Sobers and Viv though, just unfortunate I didn’t see much of them.

  6. Bruce Aanensen I will only make such judgements based on who I saw, he was the Greatest I’ve seen.

    • Choy Aping I understand. I worked in Montserrat with RBC 1970-72 when Viv and Jim Allen were great adversaries. Travelled to Antigua overnight on a pirogue to see Viv get 150 and Jim 162. Andy Roberts was in that game also.

  7. Just sharing Choy. I will not choose, they were all great.

  8. Choy, you never saw Sir Garry. Did you see Viv at his best?
    They were all great to watch, and I was gifted to see them all at the peak of their careers.
    What I would say is if you saw Viv play an on drive early, you were in for a gem.
    Brian had a great appetite for big scores but was sometimes reckless in how he scored at will. Remember the 100 in Antigua? Caused us to lose the test. If he scored at a rate of mortals, the game would have drawn.
    Garry on the other hand was not just phenomenal as a batsman, and consistent but an incredible bowler with new ball, spinning and do not forget catching wind at short forward or backward square. Ask Lance Gibbs.

  9. Lasana, I remember that 400 so well. Was in Barbados with a group, stayed at the apartment to look at cricket, as I like it a bit. Went to the beach lime after the day’s play and announced to some English folks who were at the lime, that I looked at the eyes and concentration of Brian, and assured them that there would be a score of 400 cannot out tomorrow.
    Went no where the following day except in front of the TV to see it unfold.
    I could always tell when Brian decided not to get out. Saw the 153 in Barbados. That was another day you knew that there was no one on the face of the earth to get him out.
    Cuddy also looked assured but not the rest of us. His best shot being the leave alone.