• Sunday, Jul 05, 2020
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The day Lara transcended human capacity

  • Published at 11:09 am June 6th, 2020
Warwickshire's Brian Lara smiles in front of the scoreboard after his unbeaten 501 against Durham at Edgbaston in 1994
Brian Charles Lara, one of the finest batmen the game has ever produced, played a mammoth innings of 501 on that glorious Monday for Warwickshire against Durham at Edgbaston to score the first ever 500-plus innings in first-class cricket
Cricket is a game of number and statistics.

As almost every delivery in a cricket match yields some sort of number that often looks redundant.

But sometimes, those numbers signifies some really important, eternal milestones. 

Such a thing took place exactly 26 years ago, June 6, 1994, when a young West Indian batsman traversed a milestone that was unprecedented, and in all likelihood shall never be broken.

Brian Charles Lara, one of the finest batmen the game has ever produced, played a mammoth innings of 501 on that glorious Monday for Warwickshire against Durham at Edgbaston to score the first ever 500-plus innings in first-class cricket. 

He took just 427 balls and remained not out with 62 fours and 10 sixes. 

The 25-year old Lara was already a superstar, scoring the then world record of 375 in a Test innings exactly 50 days ago before that eventful day. 

However, he was not even considered for the first XI of the county side. 

Allan Donald, the South African fast bowler, was their original overseas player and when he left for International duty they decided to rope in Indian all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar.

But as the Indian got injured and with the stroke of luck their chairman MJK Smith was on tour with the England team in the Caribbean, they could land a deal of 40,000 pounds for the season with Lara just days before he made the Test record.

On the first day of the match, June 2, Durham closed the first day on 365/3 after winning the toss, and declared on 556/8 on the second day.

In reply, Warwickshire lost opener Dominic Ostler early and Lara entered the arena. 

He was in red hot form in his debut season for the county scoring five centuries in six matches but did not start very convincingly that day. 

His leg stump was uprooted by fellow West Indian Anderson Cummins when he was on 12 only to find that the bowler overstepped, and he got another reprieve when wicket-keeper Chris Scott dropped a sitter when he was on 18. 

Scott famously said "With my luck, he will go on to get a 100," little he knew the anguish will be five times greater. 

Lara indeed reached his century in 138 balls and remained unbeaten on 111 with his side on 210/2 in 43 overs at stumps on day two. 

Day three, Saturday, June 4, was completely washed out. 

In those days, Sunday League was so crucial that teams had to give a pause to their county matches and both Warwickshire and Durham played their 40-over game on that Sunday. 

Lara was dismissed for just six and perhaps got some rest to make history the next day.

On the last day, June 6, with a day washed out, the result in the four-day match looked impossible and the batting side’s only concern was to avoid follow on by scoring another 193 runs. 

But Lara had some other ideas. 

He reached 150 in 193 balls and added 50 more in just 27 deliveries.

The southpaw took only another 25 balls to add his next fifty and went to lunch on 285.  

After resumption he reached 300 in 278 balls with 44 fours and seven sixes.

His dominance could be well understood by the fact that his third-wicket partnership with Trevor Penny yielded 314 runs but the latter contributed only 44 runs in it. 

After the loss of Penny and a short stint with Paul Smith (12), Lara got an aggressive partner in the like of Keith Piper, who did an important job helping him reach the milestone. 

Lara reached 350 in 311 balls and 400 in 350 balls before going to tea on 418 with the side on 636/4. 

After tea he looked a bit sluggish, perhaps due to fatigue, and took as many as 48 balls to reach his next fifty. 

But he continued and reached 497 before facing John Morris in an incident-filled over.

As the match had no chance of fetching a result by then, according to rule, it had to be stopped half an hour before the schedule and that Morris over was supposed to be the last one but Lara did not know about it. 

He played three dot balls and Morris, the gentle medium pacer, could extract a bouncer even at that stage to hit Lara’s helmet in the fourth delivery. 

Piper however, was alert and quickly informed his partner that he would get only two more balls in the match.

With that message and perhaps with the rage of being struck on the head, he smashed the next Morris delivery beyond the boundary to upgrade the human capacity once again by getting past half a thousand runs in an innings. 

In the era of Twenty20 it is almost impossible to imagine the batsmen of future will have so much patience to break the record.

Aneek R. Haque, now a Supreme Court lawyer, then a student of University of Wolverhampton, was in the ground and witnessed history. 

He told Dhaka Tribune Friday recalling the innings, "Lara was flawless on that day. The strokes he played and the moment he reached the milestone are still vividly alive in my memory."

But, with all the saga of that fairy-tale innings, one must recall another incident that took place on January 11, 1959. 

Hanif Mohammad, the legendary Pakistan batsman was playing for Karachi against Bahawalpur. 

In the penultimate ball of the third day, he was not out on 498 (the manual scoreboard erroneously showed 496) and when he desperately tried to come back for the second run the fielder at point gathered the ball and ran him out for 499.

The fairy-tales sometimes, it seems, are not meant to be born. 
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