West Indies v England, 4th Test, Antigua, 3rd day

I was there!

Simon Cambers enjoys Brian Lara's 400 not out

Roving Reporter by Simon Cambers in Antigua

April 12, 2004

Text size: A | A



Deja vu: another guard of honour for Brian Lara in Antigua © Wisden
Enlarge

In the words of Max Boyce, I was there.

I almost wasn't, but that's another story entirely. Let's just say that taking a bus in Antigua is not quite the same thing as hopping on the No. 9 in the middle of London. If you make it to your destination without any broken bones, job done. What's a couple of bruises between friends?

But I did make it to the ground an hour before the start of play, and the tension was already clearly evident. Could Brian Lara achieve the impossible ... again?

The atmosphere inside the ground was strangely subdued. It was almost as if the capacity crowd was holding its collective breath, barely believing that Lara was on the verge of creating history for the second time. Ten years after eclipsing Sir Garry Sobers' record of 365 here, Lara suffered the ignominy of seeing his record taken away by the bludgeoning bat of Matthew Hayden just six months ago. To regain it, having been at one of the low points of his career coming into this match, almost beggars belief.

I have been lucky enough to witness some of the great sporting moments of recent years - Goran Ivanisevic's emotional Wimbledon victory in 2001, England's World Cup victory over Argentina in 2002, Cathy Freeman's 400-metre triumph at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. But watching Lara carve the England attack to shreds a second time almost took the breath away.

At times, the debacle of West Indies' batting and the dominance of England's bowling in the first three Tests was almost forgotten as Lara reminded everyone just how good he really is. OK, so the pitch looked so good that even Phil Tufnell, part of the England bowling attack battered by Lara ten years ago, might have fancied a bat on it. True, the series was already done and dusted after the third Test, with West Indies a pitiful shadow of the side that dominated the sport in the 1980s and '90s. But still, to bat for more than 12 hours and for more than 200 overs in searing heat takes incredible concentration and no little fitness. And to do it after making just 100 runs in his six previous innings, and after being pilloried by the local media, is an outstanding achievement.

Lara was a little bit edgy in the 350s - we all know what that's like - and the crowd gasped again as England appealed for a catch behind the stumps off Gareth Batty. But Lara survived and then, in epic style, smashed Batty out of the ground to equal Hayden's record.

The new record, brought up next ball with a sweep for four, was as much a relief as anything. Lara leapt in the air, kissed the middle of the pitch, and was congratulated by all the English players, half the crowd and the Antiguan prime minister. The crowd gave him what must be one of the longest standing ovations ever seen in sport, and it's a mark of respect that the English supporters, in a huge majority once again, rose to acclaim Lara's genius.

Even Hayden and Sachin Tendulkar might just admit now that Lara once again deserves the tag of best player on the planet - although the sad few who jeered and began a slow handclap when West Indies came out to continue batting after lunch might disagree.

A couple of killjoys were even heard to say that Lara only produces his best when the pressure is off, but to believe that you'd need a heart of stone. The celebrations when he reached his 400 were more muted but, once again, Lara showed the world that he has a talent very few people could ever hope to enjoy. Browbeaten and battle-weary, Lara proved that there's life in the old dog yet.

And if I survive my bus journeys over the next few days, I'll be able to tell everyone that I was there.

Simon Cambers is covering England's tour of West Indies for Reuters.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Related Links

    Crunch time for Sehwag and Gambhir

Numbers Game: The Indian T20 tournament presents an opportunity to both to show their class once again

The rise of the Associates

Firdose Moonda: Cricket below the international top tier is well structured. It's a pity the Test-playing world doesn't take a leaf out of their book

    The choking problem

Martin Crowe: If they are to live up to their potential in next year's World Cup at home, New Zealand need to look within

    Impressing Viv and Greg

Five Firsts: Former Pakistan batsman Haroon Rasheed on the compliments he received, and his admiration for Gavaskar

Why India are not cricket's Brazil yet

Samir Chopra: The numbers might be in their favour, but they can't boast sustained excellence or a distinctive playing style

News | Features Last 7 days

UAE all set to host lavish welcoming party

The controversy surrounding the IPL has done little to deter fans in UAE from flocking the stadiums, as they gear up to watch the Indian stars in action for the first time since 2006

Attention on Yuvraj, Gambhir in IPL 2014

ESPNcricinfo picks five players for whom this IPL is of bigger significance

The watch breaker, and Malinga specials

The Plays of the day from the match between Kolkata and Mumbai, in Abu Dhabi

India: cricket's Brazil

It's difficult to beat a huge talent base exposed to good facilities, and possessed of a long history of competing as a nation

Fifty for the pantheon

What if you had to narrow all of cricket greatness down to 50 names?

News | Features Last 7 days