Which MRF Bat owner was better? Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara! The question will never have a definite answer. But one thing even the most ardent Indian Cricket would have to admit that when it came to waving the wand across five sessions in a test match, it was Lara who had an edge over Sachin.
Obviously, Sachin scored 17 centuries more compared to Lara’s 34. But Lara’s 34 tons had 9 doubles along to go with a score of 375 and 400. Sachin never got that far. I hope Indian cricket fans don’t hate me for glorifying Lara today, come on, it is his birthday today.
Lara once had said, “I love batting. I never enjoyed watching someone else bat. I would have always preferred to be out in the middle rather than sitting in the dressing room. If my team had a plan of batting through five sessions, my duties would be to bat through. I would only leave the ground when my captain would decide to declare.”
And the man did as he wished. He was the perfect man to be idolized for aspiring test cricketers. The batsmanship of Lara earned him 19 150+ scores.
The back lift, the movement, the elegance of a left-hander; all of these were the elements that Lara use to establish him as the wizard on the pitch.
It was the 12th of April 2004. That was the day when Lara rewrote history to reclaim the record for the highest individual score in the longest format of the game. 10 years back on the same ground in Antigua Lara had broke Garry Sobers’ 36-year-old record against England.
In the 4th Test of that series against England, West Indies were facing at a series whitewash. But Lara came out waving his wand and broke the shackles. He reminded the world of his brilliance with that innings. All who have watched cricket would remember the fact that Lara was the first person to have scored a quadruple in test cricket. But very few remember that the matches previous to that one, Lara had scored just 100 runs in 3 Tests and there were questions raised about his form.
West Indies won the toss and batted first. Lara took the crease after Gayle’s dismissal and a delayed start to the session after Lunch due to a storm. Little did we know that a storm much stronger than that was to usher on Antigua.
By the end of Day 1, Lara helped West Indies finish with 208 for 2 and finished with 86 not out. On Day 2, he scored a triple hundred and West Indies were 595 for 5. On Day 3 he got to 400 and West Indies declared for 751/7. Lara finished his innings two minutes shy of 13 hours for the record. His uneaten 400 included 43 fours and four sixes.
But this was not the first time that Lara had crossed the 400 mark in cricket. In fact it was a decade earlier that he had achieved that feat finally crossing the 500 mark in a first-class match playing for Warwickshire against Durham. And it was on 6th June 1994 itself when Lara achieved the status of immortality in cricket, much before Sachin could achieve it.
Though, the monumental score of 501 not out was not flawless. Lara was bowled off a no-ball on 12 and then was dropped by wicketkeeper Chris Scott on 18. But after that, it was like the Allied power breaking through the Normandy breeches of the Nazi army. In fact that day was the 50th anniversary of D Day landing of the allies. And Lara gifted a blitzkrieg of his own to the British cricket that day. In all, Lara faced only 427 deliveries and hammered 62 fours and ten sixes.
On the final day, he whacked 174 runs before lunch. He then added 133 in the second. At 497, he played three balls from the occasional bowler John Morris defensively then was surprised to be cracked on the helmet by a bouncer off the fourth. But then to everyone’s awe, the next ball was driven for four.
But when the innings ended it was not Brian Lara who was exhausted. It was the scorer of the match Brian Hunt who was tired. But none the less, each one on the field that day was elated. And that was the day when a 25 years old had cemented his position with the likes of Bradman, Hobbs, and Grace in cricket’s pantheon of greats.