Brian Charles Lara : FIVE great Test knocks that proved futile

Those episodes when West Indies failed their greatest batsman of the generation.

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If there is one cricketer to be endowed with the sobriquet of “Prince of Pity”, the former West Indian left-hander Brian Lara seems to be giving a lot of people a run for their money.

The reason behind such an opinion is way too simple. With the legend of Lara and the decline of the Caribbean cricket almost overlapping for the greater part of the former’s career, many a times the world had seen how the other ten of his teammates simply failed to make a game out of the spoils of their most successful batsman.

In all, 17 of Lara’s 53 international tons came in losing causes – the second most by a batsman at a ratio of almost one per three. Teammates Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul also feature in the top five – with 13 centuries of each going in vain. Indian legend, Sachin Tendulkar tops the list with 25 of his 100 tons coming in defeats.

However in Tests, Lara leads the misery with 14 hundreds in subjugations – three of them being double tons. No cricketer ever has managed more than a single double in a losing cause. Let us have a ride on five best of his knocks that failed to resurrect his spineless side.

226 (298 balls, 22×4, 0x6) v Australia, Adelaide, November 2005:

West Indies had already lost the series when they reached Adelaide for the final Test of the three-match series. Winning the toss, skipper Chanderpaul chose to bat but his openers returned to the hut inside the first six overs. With wickets tumbling at regular intervals with none of the Windies batsmen crossing 40, Lara kept on to his own. With brilliant shot making, the southpaw batsman completed his ton from just 144 deliveries post lunch. In the final session, he upped the ante and his next hundred runs came in just 117 deliveries. At stumps on day one, West Indies rode on the one-man show of Lara to finish an otherwise disastrous outing at 352 for 7 – Lara unbeaten at 202.

In the next morning, Lara could last only nine more overs before Glenn McGrath disturbed his woodwork – thus ending an essay that lasted quarter to seven hours. Farther, Australia would bat deep with Mike Hussey (133*) at one end to take a slender lead of 23. With Lara falling at 17, West Indies could set all but an achievable target of 182 – the hosts winning the game by seven wickets and completing the whitewash. The first innings knock of the Santa Cruz wonder still stands as the second highest in a losing cause after Ricky Ponting’s 242 against India at the same venue in 2003.

221 (354 balls, 23×4, 2×6) v Sri Lanka, Colombo, November 2001:

Victor Trumper from Australia was the second person whose double ton went in vain. His unbeaten 214 against South Africa at home (again in Adelaide) stood as the highest at the time the dead rubber went underway – with the visitors under Carl Hooper trying to avoid a whitewash. West Indies started well and finished the day on top – with a score of 327 for three. Lara led the show with an unbeaten 178, Hooper staying with unfinished business at 52 before Ramnaresh Sarwan too made 69 up the order.

However, Sri Lankan seamer Chaminda Vaas triggered a collapse the next morning with the visitors able to add just 63 more – Lara contributed 43 of them. Hashan Tillakaratne’s double late into the Lankan innings paved the way for a massive lead and the tourists – once again led by a Lara brilliance – managed to avoid an innings defeat. The Prince of Trinidad batted for more than four hours to score his second ton of the game – a fluent 130 that ensured his side clear up the deficit before falling to Nuwan Zoysa. With 688 from the series, the quadruple man was awarded the best player of the series.

202 (274 balls, 32×4, 2×6) v South Africa, Johannesburg, December 2003:

After Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis scored a hundred each to post 561 on board, the visitors had their task cut out. Soon on the third morning, after Sarwan departed, Lara – this time in leading duties himself – attacked from the onset as he took just 74 balls to reach fifty and later completed his three-figures in 142. At stumps on day three, the Calypso batter stayed on 178 with his side just avoiding the follow-on. Next morning, Lara completed his sixth double hundred before falling to Andre Nel and three balls later the Caribbean innings too came to a close. The skipper batted for more than seven hours. With a lead of 151, the Proteas ensured a target of 378 – Lara failed in the chase with just five runs to his name and the visitors lost the encounter by 189 runs.

196 (286 balls, 25×4, 0x6) v South Africa, Port of Spain, April 2005:

In what was some heartbreak in his native for the West Indian statesman, Lara once again scored plenty in a game where none of his contemporaries could pass 40. Coming in once early after the fall of first two wickets in the eighth over, the revered batsman made 159 of 281 that West Indies made on the first day. Later in the next morning, the trusted warrior looked well on course for his eighth double before an Andre Nel delivery castled him for good. Skipper Graeme Smith (148) ensured a lead of 51 for the visitors. Lara lasted just seven deliveries into his second outing scoring just a boundary. Sarwan’s fighting ton proved little as South Africa drew first blood in the series with an easy eight wicket victory. This also remained the highest ever in an innings for the veteran prince at his hometown for West Indies that unfortunately catapulted in a loss.

182 (235 balls, 29×4, 1×6) v Australia, Adelaide, December 2000:

Five years and a tour earlier before he essayed the major heartbreak that we started this list with, Lara once again battled a solo as none of his teammates scored a fifty. His close to six hours’ storm in the middle helped West Indies put up 391. After conceding a slender lead of 12, Lara started more aggressively in his second composition with a 38-ball 39 before Colin Miller cut him short again. Australia survived a few early hiccups to see off the 130 run target. Australia’s third win in as many matches intensified the threat of a 0-5 thrashing on cards.

 

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