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1994

Lara's quintuple fable

Six weeks after smashing 375, then the highest Test score, Brian Lara became the only man to pass 500 in first-class cricket

Martin Williamson

May 31, 2014

Comments: 13 | Text size: A | A

In two recent Rewinds we looked at Brian Lara's record 375 and 400* for West Indies. Now 20 years on, we look back to when Lara became the only man to pass 500 in first-class cricket, beating the record of 499 made by Hanif Mohammad in 1959


Brian Lara poses next to the scoreboard that shows his record-breaking 501, Warwickshire v Durham, County Championship, Edgbaston, 4th day, June 6, 1994
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Less than a fortnight after his record-breaking 375 against England, Brian Lara had arrived in England to begin his summer at Edgbaston. Warwickshire had initially lined up Manoj Prabhakar as a one-season replacement for Allan Donald, but when he got injured they signed Lara. That was done during the Barbados Test, days before that record innings.

It proved an inspirational signing. In the days before the start of the county season, Warwickshire sold hundreds of new memberships on the back of Lara being their overseas player and media interest was high.

"In advance of his first game, the publicity was amazing," team-mate Gladstone Small recalled. "I've never played county cricket with a player attracting this kind of interest. More than 4000 spectators came to watch the first day against Glamorgan." Unfortunately, they had to watch Lara in the field as Warwickshire captain Dermot Reeve lost the toss.

Nonetheless, he made a hundred against Glamorgan in his first knock since his record, and with a bat he only picked up the day before. "The one I used in Antigua has been signed by all the players and is now a memento," he told the press. He followed that with 106 and 120 not out against Leicester, 136 against Somerset, and 26 and 140 against Middlesex. The only hiccup was his one-day form where he had managed only 64 runs in four outings.

When Durham visited Warwickshire at the start of June there was no reason to think Lara's run would end, especially when on a perfect batting track Durham scored 556 for 8. In reply, Warwickshire closed the second day on 210 for 2, Lara recording his seventh hundred in eight innings late in the afternoon, the first man to reach that landmark.

But it was a far from convincing hundred. He had two let-offs. The first when he was bowled off a no-ball from Anderson Cummins when on 12, the second six runs later when he was dropped by wicketkeeper Chris Scott.

'It was his worst start of the summer," said Warwickshire opener Roger Twose. "Apart from being bowled behind his legs from a no-ball and nearly dragging on a few times, I even managed to outscore him. He was clearly annoyed with the way he was playing. At tea, he went straight into the indoor nets for 15 minutes."

Rain washed out the third day, and on the Sunday Lara's poor limited-overs form continued as he made only 6 against Durham.

When the Championship game resumed on Monday, the lost day meant unless the captains reached an agreement as to declarations and Warwickshire were set a target, the final three sessions were going to be little more than a glorified net. The presence of Lara allied to the excellent pitch gave Durham skipper Phil Bainbridge little incentive to enter into any negotiations, and so Warwickshire batted on.

Despite the rest, Lara still seemed out of sorts. In the indoor nets, before the start, Bob Woolmer, the county's director of cricket, said he "looked shocking by his standards, not moving well at all".

From Karachi to Birmingham

  • Amazingly, Bob Woolmer saw both Lara's innings and that of Hanif Mohammad in Karachi in 1959.
  • "I was at prep school at Tonbridge and my father was working in Karachi. I was flown out on a BOAC Comet 4. That was a story in itself: we were actually forced down by fighters in Baghdad, where there was political trouble. I was 11 and I was very scared.
  • "Dad dropped me at the ground at Karachi where Hanif was closing in on the record and then he went to work. I don't remember much about it. There was a big crowd, a matting wicket, a very rough outfield and a bloke getting run out."
  • Wisden reported Mushtaq Mohammad, who played in the Karachi match, raced to Edgbaston from his office in Birmingham, having been tipped off by a phone call when Lara was past 450, but arrived too late.

But from the start Lara took on the bowlers, scoring 174 runs in the first session to reach lunch on 285, with one more reprieve when he was dropped at mid-off by Cummins when on 238. He smashed boundaries to all corners of a nearly deserted Edgbaston.

Trevor Penney, who contributed 44 to a third-wicket stand of 314, watched in awe. "He just smashed Simon Brown, who'd changed ends. He hit him for 20 in one over. I'd just faced the bloke and thought he's bowling well. You can't imagine how he hits it like that. When he decides to whack a six, it's gone. It wasn't slogging, just clean hitting. The opposition were speechless and in awe of him."

During the interval the crowd grew as word spread Lara was hitting out. "I thought about declaring at lunchtime to make a game of it, "Reeve told the Daily Express. "But Brian said, 'Let me go for 500'. It shows how confident he was."

Three overs into the afternoon Lara brought up his triple-hundred, made in 280 minutes off 278 deliveries. And all the time people kept arriving. By tea he was on 418 but had enjoyed another life five runs earlier when dropped at square leg by substitute fielder Michael Burns. The oddity was Burns was Warwickshire's reserve wicketkeeper, on the field because Durham's 12th man was already being used.

The final session was played out in glorious sunshine with the crowd swollen to around 3000. Lara, clearly tiring, ploughed on, all the time records tumbling, although he survived two close run-out calls. "I was very tired, but my partner Keith Piper helped me through," he said afterwards.

Piper's own hundred was almost entirely overlooked. "He never looked like flagging," Piper said. "Also, he never once asked me to give him the strike. He just told me to keep going and get myself a big one."

Eventually Durham, whose bowlers had gamely plugged away all day, turned to the part-timers Wayne Larkins and John Morris. It was Morris who bowled the last over of the match, but Lara was unaware of that.

"I was on 497 and didn't realise the over from Morris would be the last," Lara said. "So I didn't score off three and then was hit on the helmet." Groundsman Steve Rouse laughed out loud as Lara swung and missed the slowest of bouncers. "He's seeing the ball as big as a balloon, he's almost got 500 and a part-time bowler hits him on the head," he said.

"Keith came down the wicket and told me I had two balls to get the 500," Lara said. "That was panic. Three runs in two balls is never easy."

Lara cracked the next delivery through the covers for four and raised his arms aloft in triumph. His 501* had been made in seven hours and 54 minutes off 427 balls and contained 62 fours and ten sixes.

 
 
"It's a disgrace that he was allowed to bat on. Are we playing the game for the fans or personal achievements?" The curmudgeonly Fred Trueman failed to join in the celebrations
 

He was typically modest afterwards. "This is a moment I will cherish forever… the first man to score 500 runs. But I don't think I'm a great player yet. I am still only 25 and my aim is to keep up this consistency. When I get to a ripe old age then talk of me as a great cricketer."

It was only later that Trevor Jesty, one of the umpires, confirmed that play could have continued for another half hour if both captains had agreed, but Bainbridge had not realised that at the time, and nor had the batsmen.

In the Durham dressing room there were some weary bowlers. Four of them had gone for more than 150, with David Cox, a left-arm spinner making his debut, finishing with 0 for 163 from 35 overs.

"He got an inside edge past his stumps in my first over and at that stage I fancied my chances of getting into him," Cox said. "I only bowled about ten bad balls but he's impossible to bowl at because he walks across his stumps. The ball turned but he has such quick feet and hands that half the time I didn't see him coming down the wicket."

What happened next?

  • Among Lara's many sponsorship deals was one with Manchester clothing company Joe Bloggs. They had rushed out a range of "375" jeans on the back of his Antigua record but his 501 presented problems. The 501 trademark was Levi's. "If he had made 502, it would have saved us an awful lot of hassle," a company spokesman admitted. They eventually settled the conundrum by issuing a "500 and One" series of t-shirts and caps
  • Lara's remarkable run came to an end in the next match when he made 19 and 31. The following game he scored 197. He finished the 1994 season with 2066 runs at 89.82 with nine hundreds. But under close media scrutiny he found it a tough time with reports of clashes with team-mates and a less-than-wholehearted approach to training.
  • Warwickshire won the County Championship.
  • Cox played twice more in 1994 taking only one wicket to finish the summer with figures of 1 for 345.
  • Warwickshire's 70-year-old scorer, Alex Davis, was also the England scorer in Antigua

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by Cricket_theBestGame on (June 2, 2014, 23:19 GMT)

he was called the Prince of carribean so its in nature of princes to be a "little difficult" ;)

Posted by   on (June 1, 2014, 21:49 GMT)

if any one is fan of cricket must be fan of Brian Lara, the most stylish most dangerous on his day,far ahead than his contemporary players likes of Sachin, Hayden,Waugh Brothers & Ponting.

Posted by   on (June 1, 2014, 10:24 GMT)

i used to miss alot Lara vs Shoaib Akhtar... and luckily the contest came and gone in just 3 balls :(

Posted by android_user on (June 1, 2014, 2:41 GMT)

yes tendulkar lara bradman all are great players but i believe gavaskar was a touch better dan dese bcoz of d way he plundered runs against windies and aussie pace attack dat had fastest and ferocious bowlers of all time and moreover indian team at dat time didnt have any bowler even flirting arund those speeds and terror though his average wont suggest dat but if he had d kind of bats and protection equipment dat r being used today he surely wud have averaged above 60. im nt disrespecting any great player here coz wen a player is labelled great drez no argue about wat dey achieved and how much talanted and hard working dey were

Posted by   on (June 1, 2014, 0:07 GMT)

lara - best batsman in the world easily. 3 double centuries against an Australian side with warne, and 2 of them with both warne and mcgrath. amazing feat. His only flaw was really against real pace as holding said, also evident from his struggles against bond, and to some extent donald and wasim. But that was mid to later part of his career when he gained weight, and as a result his reactions slowed. Turbulent WI administration also took a toll on him - resulting in a slow decline in performances and inconsistency.

Posted by   on (May 31, 2014, 21:34 GMT)

@Mike_Tyson on - Jimmy Adams and Hooper were not world class batsman. Adams was painfully slow and Hooper would always give you a stylish 30 runs before getting out. Richardson - a competent bat - was on his way down when Lara started playing for WI, and Chanderpaul was not yet a great. Gayle and Sarwan were wildly inconsistent. It is only after Lara's retirement that Gayle stepped up marginally.

Posted by Mike_Tyson on (May 31, 2014, 17:55 GMT)

Magnificent batsman, one of the best ever, a notch below Sachin in my opinion though.

@rizwan1981 - you must not have watched much cricket if you think Lara was the only world class batsman in his team. At various points in his career, he has played alongside Haynes, Hooper, J Adams, Gayle, Chanderpaul, Sarwan, Richardson. If you honestly believe these guys were not world class batsman then your knowledge of cricket is very limited.

People also tend to forget that in Ambrose and Walsh, Lara played alongside 2 of the greatest bowlers of all time for most of his career. The WI team Lara played in was miles ahead of the Indian team that Sachin came into.

Posted by rizwan1981 on (May 31, 2014, 15:30 GMT)

Bradman has a better record but LARA was the best entertainer of them all - No one has made as many DADDY HUNDREDS as Lara .

He was also a match winner too- 153 and 213 against the best team in the world proves Lara is the best modern day batman. Viv Richards was a part of a very good team and SACHIN TENDULKAR also had other great batsman in his team to help out in crunch situations . But in the case of Lara , he was the only world class batter in the WI team.

Posted by toucheandsuch on (May 31, 2014, 15:21 GMT)

I once met a chap who had played under 19 for WI as a left arm spinner and decent bat. He told me of a match he played where he cam in at #7 to join Lara. The bowler was so quick that he kept getting beaten. However when Lara got strike he was hitting the same bowler as if he were a medium pacer!! Though Lara, Tendulkar & Ponting were always compared in the same breath, I feel that Sehwag was most like Lara. They both scored big hundreds, got them quickly and never had a scowl on their faces. Lara was a gem!!

Posted by kentjones on (May 31, 2014, 11:56 GMT)

Brian Charles Lara. Some like him, others don't, some love him others don't, some adore him others don't, some idolize him others don.t. But there is one thing for certain, all knowledgeable cricket fans respect his contribution to the game and acknowledge the batting maestro and superb entertainer that he was. To pay at the turnstiles to see Lara play is an act of anticipation and supreme hope to possibly witness an innings of a lifetime. Whether he is back in the pavilion after the first ball, plays a short cameo innings, or delivers a huge hundred or possibly a double hundred, there is one certainty with Lara, he will endeavour his very best to deliver enjoyment to the spectator. Turning up at the ground to watch Lara bat is an investment that you can take to the bank and one that can reward you with a memory that can linger for a lifetime and be a documented achievement etched forever in the record books. Thank you Mr. Lara for being such a breathtaking performer.

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