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South Africa learn the Lara lesson

Andrew Miller
A Brian Lara special helped West Indies see off South Africa in the quarter-final of the 1996 World Cup

At the 1996 World Cup, West Indies were a team in freefall. A year earlier, they had finally been deposed on home soil by the up-and-coming Australia, and with Richie Richardson fading as a leader (he would never play again after this tournament) and news of discord within the team doing the rounds, the empire built over the 1970s and '80s was crumbling. Eleven days after the squabbling giants had nosedived against the amateur cricketers of Kenya, they faced the form team of the tournament, South Africa, in a quarter-final encounter that no one truly believed they could win.

Beware, however, the flashing blade of Brian Lara. It was a warning that South Africa failed to heed, and on a cracked Karachi pitch, they made the single biggest mistake of the tournament - they omitted their spearhead, Allan Donald, in favour of an extra spinner, Paul Adams.

It was a decision that Lara greeted with glee. The fixture had already been loaded with extra baggage after Lara's controversial remarks at the end of the Kenya game, when he claimed he was happier to have lost to a team of blacks than a team of whites, but given an opportunity to atone for his cheap dismissal in that game, he needed no second bidding. He was cagey at first, playing and missing against the seamers, but then milked Adams and Pat Symcox to glorious effect, as South Africa's ground fielding went to pieces under the pressure. Lara finished on 111 from 94 balls, with 16 fours, before West Indies' own spinners, Jimmy Adams and Roger Harper, sealed the deal with 19 runs to spare.