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November 21, 2006
The bad news for Pakistan, at the end of a day where West Indies took the second Test very much into their own hands, was that Brian Lara was still batting, four short of a ninth double hundred. The only good news is that though it's entirely plausible he becomes the second man to make a triple hundred on this ground, it is not his target.
"The triple is not important," Lara told reporters at the Multan Cricket Ground, adding, "it is necessary we have a couple more partnerships so we can get the big lead we need to win this Test. For that, it is important that I stay there at the crease." The news isn't so good after all.
Lara's 34th hundred, putting him level with Sunil Gavaskar as the second-highest century-maker in Test history, was one of two distinct moods before and after lunch. Pre-lunch, he was frightening and his assaults on Danish Kaneria and Abdul Razzaq ferociously constructed. Briefly, when on 92 off 63 balls, he flirted with the idea of making the second-fastest hundred of all time. It was, he said, not planned as such, more going where the flow took him.
"It wasn't necessarily planned. We had a good base and just wanted to keep the momentum going. You don't know what is going to happen later and we didn't want to lose the chance to put something big on the board," he said, before admitting that, against Kaneria, the intent was premeditated. "It worked out well for us but we knew certain strike bowlers had to be targeted."
Kaneria was indeed targetted, during one spellbinding over in particular which conceded 26 runs, Lara dismissing him for three sixes and two fours. "Nothing really was going through my mind for that over. I was just thinking about the amount of flight he was giving the ball and trying to come out and get to the pitch of it." With a mischievous smile, he added, "Then it was just to make sure I cleared mid-on and mid-off. But Kaneria displayed a lot of character on this pitch and it shows because he was still their most successful bowler."
Not that much about 509 for 5 is disappointing, but Lara admitted he would have liked to have seen at least one hundred from one of three batsmen who got close. "Bravo, Gayle and Ganga all batted well and fell just short of making a Test hundred which was unfortunate. I like to see the younger guys get hundreds as it is more important for them. That is the only sad point of the day."
Where they failed to, Lara seized the day, not for the first time in his career. Sixteen years have seen troughs and many peaks and any end of classic knocks. The form before this wasn't great but few series are complete without Lara leaving his mark. "Definitely this was not my best batting year before this series. In 2006 I didn't do as well as I wanted. At least in the second half of the year I got going. But every time I go out, I want to do well. I still have that energy, that desire to go out and do well."
And how does it rate, in admittedly a pretty special list of best innings? Ever the professional, he refused to rate it. "It's not finished yet first of all and I don't like rating innings anyway. The fact of the matter is that we were set up by Ganga and Gayle. Someone had to get a big score and I was quite happy to do that. I enjoyed it and hopefully I can come back tomorrow and continue to put the West Indies in a good position."
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