Lara's Magnificent Return
The day started with the West Indies still in deficit by 15 runs but with nine 2nd innings wickets still in hand. It ended with them well in control and leading by 235 with four wickets still in hand and a day to go. This transformation came with the determined and consistent efforts that captain Jimmy Adams had been asking for from his team, and especially his batsmen.
While Adams himself, Sherwin Campbell and Adrian Griffith all provided some glimpses of the toughness necessary to be consistent, all with half centuries, it was Brian Charles Lara, with his first Test century in fifteen months, who not only took the initiative to the West Indies team, but literally destroyed England's bowling and most of their hopes too for Test No. 3.
Lara was so intent on this success, achieved with a sore hamstring muscle and perhaps in about 75 % of form, that he not only bludgeoned the English bowling on the field, but did the same to the West Indies reserve bowlers, Nixon McLean and Corey Colleymore, in the practice nets at lunch time too. Not out on 49 at lunch, Lara had a "net", for 25 of the 40 minute break, instead of having lunch. Amazing really, when one remembers that this guy has been accused by many at not being committed to West Indies cricket. What a retort he has played for his critics, batting with a distinct injury and no proper food.
Here are the facts: By the time he was run out for 112, probably because he could not turn properly on that injured leg, Lara, also probably very hungry too, for food, that is, had batted just about 200 minutes. Not spectacular at all. What was spectacular was the fact that in that crucial 4th wicket partnership of 138 runs with Jimmy Adams, Lara made exactly 100 while Adams only managed 27. That partnership was achieved in only 166 minutes and contained only 256 balls.
When Lara had gotten to 100, he has bashed, slashed and gored the English bowling for twelve 4's and one 6 in only 116 balls in 155 minutes. He was definitely like a man possessed, perhaps even a man so determined that nothing could deter his assault. This was his 14th Test century, his 6th against England and his 2nd at the same Old Trafford, 145 in the 2nd innings of the corresponding 3rd Test in 1995 being his first here. Who needs real food when one could be filled with real satisfaction over such an effort.
Said a very pleased Lara afterwards:
"It is always very nice to get a century. However, I am still very disappointed that I was not able to 'fill my boots' (get more runs in my innings). In my run out, I just did not get the call, did not hear it early enough, and because of my hamstring injury, I could not turn quickly enough to get back. Some of the guys suggested that I should have tried to 'dive in', but with this injury to my leg, it would have been very difficult to even do that.
These things happen, but at least I am overly happy with my contribution to the team's overall performance. That is of great importance to us, and to me especially. Everyone did pretty well. I am now going to go out to dinner with my friends who had come up from Trinidad & Tobago just to see this game. Then I am going to relax a bit and look forward to the final day. My innings has come and unfortunately gone, but I look forward to taking some catches and hopefully putting some real pressure on England on the final day."
"We are definitely going to bat on for some of the 5th and final day. I am not the decision maker, per se', but I am sure that we would bat on for a while, and when we think that we are in a safe position, we would then try to put the English under pressure and see what we can get out if it. I genuinely believe that the team's performance was really excellent, as if I had gone in with early wickets down, I would have been struggling too. (Sherwin) Campbell, (Adrian) Griffith and (Wavell) Hinds did an excellent job before Jimmy and I had that partnership.
Then the rest of the guys just continued on. The team's overall batting today put us in a great position. Jimmy's (Adams) 53 was crucial while I was batting. That is what his batting is about. He is always going to play the anchor role, as he is not one who will want to try to come out and compete with any of his batsmen and try to play 'shot for shot.' He normally plays the anchor role and did that superbly on Day 4 of this game. I am sure that he will do that in the remainder of this Test series. It has been a special effort by everyone."
"I got great pleasure at scoring this hundred. My last 2nd innings total here at Old Trafford was also a hundred, and it is very nice to get a hundred under pressure, in a critical situation for the game. A Test hundred is always very special, but there is also some sort of disappointment for me, as I have not had many runs for the series, and I was really trying to get many more today. These are the times when you look at the averages and decide that enough is enough. I wanted a big score today. A century was fine, but I wanted a big century today.
Sometimes you know you want to do so well. This was one of those days that I really wanted to do well. At lunch time, while I was not out, I knew that the new ball was just about being available to England and (Darren) Gough and (Andy) Caddick, so I elected to get out in the nets during the break to hit a couple of new ball with some great help from Nixon McLean and Corey Collymore. I needed to keep my rhythm going and I did not want to just sit in the dressing room and wind down, getting cold. I simply decided to go and work on my game. Thankfully, for me and the team, it worked well."
Day 5 should produce only two of the possible four results. Almost certainly, there will be no tie. With the West Indies starting with a lead of 235, it would be unlikely that there could be an English victory. Only a West Indies win, or a draw, could be possible. The West Indies are now in the driving seat.