18th April : Lara and McCullum ensured a day of individual milestones

Brian Lara scored 375 while Brendon McCullum scored an unbeaten 158 in the IPL.

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On this day 14 years apart, West Indian Brian Lara and New Zealander Brendon McCullum asserted their supremacy in their respective patented formats to not only rewrite the record books but also ensured their individual legacies live on till eternity.

Starting with the older one of the feats, before the fifth and final Test were to go underway at the St John’s in Antigua, the most runs accumulated by a batsman in a single innings belonged to the great West Indian all-rounder Sir Gary Sobers who amassed 365 and remained unbeaten against a touring Pakistan at Kingston, Jamaica that stood the test of time and remained at the top of the heap for 36 years – the longest one in progression in the history of Test cricket to grace the pedestal.

As far as the then ongoing series was concerned, West Indies won the first three games to pocket the Wisden Trophy, although the Englishmen fought back to win the fourth. On a batting paradise in the fifth , Courtney Walsh won the toss and decided to bat first. The hosts however lost their openers early – with Lara coming after the fall of the first wicket. On the day later on, the southpaw batsman, who scored his fifty off 121 balls, raced on to his ton in 180 before scoring the next fifty in another 60 deliveries. At stumps on day one, West Indies were stayed put at 274 for 3 with Lara scoring 164 of them all by himself. Jimmy Adams scored 59 himself in his four-hour vigil and added 179 for the third wicket with Lara.

The next day, Keith Arthurton did another Adams as he supported Lara with his 184-ball 47 and put up a 183-run stand. Meanwhile, the aggressive “Little Man” reached his 200 in just 311 balls before he sweated farther to reach his first triple ton in 432 deliveries. Shivnarine Chanderpaul was the man present at the other end when Lara reached the milestone. Later on in their career, the two of them would have many an epic partnership between them. At the end of day two, West Indies were nicely placed at 502 for 4 with Lara on 320 and Chanderpaul on 41.

The third day morning was special and there was great anticipation all around as Brian Lara just 46 short of that elusive three-and-a-half decade record. With every passing moment, Lara closed in – reaching his 350 in 511 balls. However, there were some twists in the tail – Lara, in his otherwise fluent essay, was kept quiet on 347 for some 20 odd minutes by the English bowlers. In fact, that record breaking moment too deserve a special mention. As Lara was in the process of completing the shot off a Chris Lewis delivery, his foot came in contact with the stumps. One of the bails did get disturbed from its inertia but gained not enough momentum to fall on the ground.

Thus Lara survived to surpass Sobers but exhausted, his saga eventually came to curtains on his individual score of 375 – just a quarter shy of 13 hours in the middle facing 538 balls. There were 45 times that the master dispatched the cherry to the ropes but not for once did he hit it over the fence. Lara’s strike rate boast a staggering 69.7 while Chanderpaul who made an unbeaten 75 had the second better in the West Indian innings – that was declared close the moment Lara was dismissed – at just little over 41 runs per 100 balls. In reply to 593, England too reached the same late on day five. The match finally ended in a stalemate.

On the other hand, exactly 14 years after that Lara special, it was a watershed day in the history of Indian vis-à-vis the world cricket. The expensive cricket league of all time – Indian Premier League – was all set to be kicked off on that very day in a grand inaugural ceremony at the Chinnaswamy in Bangalore. The franchise-based league would in the coming years change the landscape of T20 tournaments across the world and take the format to almost a separate professional entity on lines never seen in the game.

And into the opening game with Kolkata Knight Riders’ Brendon McCullum picking 18 off the very second over from Zaheer Khan, there were a lot of buzz in the air that promised something special in out in the offing.

McCullum became the first to post a fifty in IPL and he reached that landmark in 32 balls in the last ball of the ninth over. He had already hit five fours and three sixes and little did we know at that point that he would go on to entertain the crowd till eternity. McCullum would go hammer and tongs and would hit each and every bowler out of the park. From welcoming Ashley Noffke with a maximum to taking Sunil Joshi over the fence a couple of times, McCullum would take out 16 from the three deliveries that Cameron White had to bowl against him in his only over of the day. Mccullum would eventually reach his ton in 53 balls – taking just 21 balls to make his last 50 runs.

In the penultimate over, Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Rahul Dravid handed the ball to Jacques Kallis who is yet to be hit to the stands by McCullum and the former Kiwi captain hit the South African all-rounder out of the park twice – the 21 runs off the over helped Knight Riders reach 200. Like Kallis, the then rising Indian seamer Praveen Kumar too was spared by the Bazz onslaught till he came onto bowl the final over. And to the bowler’s dismay, McCullum would hit him thrice over the fence to squeeze 22 off the over – thus becoming the first batsman in T20 to go past 150.

In his 73-ball 158, McCullum would go past a two-year old record set by Cameron White – the man himself was present to see his monumental being dismantled. White scored a 70-ball 141 in his unbeaten knock for Somerset against Worcestershire. McCullum however went past White in his own undefeated IPL special hitting 10 boundaries and a record 13 sixes. Knight Riders finished on 222 for 3 and in a one-sided game thereon would win the match by a thumping 140 runs that would remain an IPL record victory margin for many years.

Five seasons thereafter, West Indies opener Chris Gayle would play a 66-ball 175 in the same stadium for the Royal Challengers against the now-defunct Pune Warriors to become the highest run scorer in a T20 innings. Likewise, Australian Matthew Hayden too would break Lara’s Antigua antics in his marathon knock of 380 before the Trinidad prince would regain his legacy by becoming the first ever to score a quadruple in Test – scoring an unbeaten knock of 400 at the same venue and against the same rivals (read England) in 2004.

Records may fall, but their legacies certainly lives on and perhaps no one who witnessed either of them would disagree on the colossal happenings of this day that were crafted as a record but have had been surpassed by more special ones.

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