August 6, 2000

Lara: I'm not at full fitness

Staff and agencies

Cornhill Insurance

After hammering a sixth Test century against England, West Indian Brian Lara has conceded that he is still not fully fit.

The brilliant left hander, who remains troubled by a niggling hamstring injury, plundered 112 to lead his team to a second innings score of 381/6 - and an overall lead of 235 - as the tourists' great act of revival continued on the fourth day of the Third Test between the teams at Old Trafford.

"I haven't been playing for a couple of weeks because of injury and I don't think I'm in any great form at the moment. But it's a nice time to score runs.

"The pitch has not got much life in it but you've still got to be pretty careful.

"I'm not at full fitness; I think I went into the match feeling seventy-five per cent. But it's a Test match and, as long as I can walk, I would have been out there playing.

"It's going do some damage to my leg, set me back a few days. But this is Test cricket.

"I wasn't really concerned about what's necessary for myself, it was going out there and making a contribution for the team. It was important to score runs - we weren't out of the woods.

"From the time we took the field on third day, we've bowled well and batted well.

"I'd like to come back tomorrow and finish it off but I know it is going to be difficult. Hopefully, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose and the other young fast bowlers can get among the English batsmen."

Lara, who had been unbeaten on 49 at the break, also revealed that he headed into the nets during the lunch interval today to ensure that he was able to maintain his momentum against a persistent English attack.

"I went into the nets because I wanted to keep my rhythm going. I got into groove and I didn't want to spend thirty minutes in the dressing room waiting to get out there again, especially as the new ball was due in a couple of overs. I wanted to keep things going.

"I was batting pretty well but the most important period was (the one against) that second new ball. I picked things up in my innings with the ball pretty old and I was able to build a foundation."

As for the impending conclusion to the match and his team's chances of assuming a 2-1 lead in the series, Lara was relatively non-committal.

"It's going to be tough. We've shown great character over the last two days and now this is England's opportunity to do so. It's necessary that we try to go 2-1 here. It's difficult for any team to hit back with two Test matches left."