There are many top players to have graced Test cricket but none more so than Brian Lara. The West Indian legend was one of the most iconic batsmen of red-ball cricket. He topped the Test rankings on several different occasions while holding several personal records as well, including the highest individual score in a Test innings as well as the highest individual score in first-class cricket, which stands at 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham at Edgbaston in 1994.
Nicknamed, ‘The Prince,’ the star batsman from Trinidad has been involved in many classic Test performances through his career, scoring 53 International centuries along the way. 13 years since his retirement, there are some that stand above the rest, and on this note, let’s take a look at Lara’s top five Test innings.
277 vs Australia - Sydney (January 1993)
Since his Test debut in 1990, Brian Lara was yet to establish himself as a force to reckon with in red-ball cricket. This all changed during the Windies tour of Australia in 1993, where he produced one of his top Test knocks.
Chasing down the 503/9 (d) scored by the hosts in the third Test of the series, Lara set up a strong partnership with then skipper Richie Richardson, lifting his side from 31 to 324 by the time his partner departed. On the way to his first double century, Lara scored at a strike rate of 74.46 while his score of 277 runs consisted of 38 fours.
Although the match ended in a draw, a legend was born. Aussie legend Shane Warne later quipped, "If you didn't run him out, I think he would still be batting now. He was hitting the gaps every time,” as mentioned on the ICC website.
375 v England - Antigua (April 1994)
A year on from his first Test ton, Brian Lara was at it again, this time back home against England. However, this particular innings was more than special for The Prince, after his 375 in 538 balls broke the previous highest individual score in Tests which was Sir Garfield Sobers' 365* in 1958, a record that lasted for 36 years.
Batting first against the visitors, the Windies were 12/2 when Lara entered the pitch. His innings extended for over 12 hours, with Lara playing at a strike rate of 69.70, including 45 fours. A brilliant team effort led by Michael Atherton and Robin Smith ensured England managed to reach the Windies’ score of 593, with the match eventually ending in a draw.
"He is the only batsman today who plays the game the way it should be played – with his bat," Gary Sobers commented after the game.
213 vs Australia - Kingston (March 1999)
Australia’s tour of West Indies in 1999 came at a time of decline for the Windies, coinciding with the captaincy of Brian Lara. The whole team was put under the scanner after a humbling whitewash to South Africa.
While not much was expected from the team, a loss against the visitors in the first Test of the series did not do them much good. However, their fortunes began turning in the second Test, with Lara scoring a splendid 213 runs off 344 balls to lead from the front. He built up a strong partnership with Jimmy Adams, leading the team to a first innings score of 431 after bowling out the Aussies for a measly 256.
Winning this match by a margin of 10 wickets did a world of good for the Windies and helped boost their morale.
153* vs. AUS - Bridgetown (March 1999)
While Lara’s 221-run innings against Sri Lanka in 2001 was quite special, it came in a losing cause, which makes this innings the next choice in line. With the series drawn 1-1, visitors Australia started the third Test slow, but a brilliant innings from Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting ensured his team managed to end their innings at 490.
After a disappointing start, the Windies found themselves in a precarious position, trailing by 161 runs after the first innings. However, a strong bowling performance led by the legendary Courtney Walsh bowled out the Aussies for just 146, with the Windies needing 308 for the win.
The task seemed hard, and after losing three wickets for 78 runs, the in-form Lara rallied on as the wickets kept falling around him. With the scored reading 248/8, Lara was determined to get the victory. His 153* led the Windies to a memorable one-wicket victory in a period where the team was experiencing a downfall.
In the words of the great Clive Lloyd, "To play as he did today, nursing along players with much less ability, was the hallmark of greatness."
400* v England - St John's (April 2004)
Having already etched his name in history books after going past Gary Sobers’ record, Lara found his record being beaten by Matthew Hayden six months prior to this innings when the Aussie hit 380 against Zimbabwe.
Batting first, Lara set the record for the highest individual score of 400 not out in the fourth Test of the series. He faced 582 deliveries, striking at a rate of 68.72, including 43 fours and four sixes. However, the score might almost not have been after The Prince was dropped at 359 by debutant wicketkeeper Geraint Jones.
While the Windies ended the match with a draw, Lara had to battle his own faltering form during this series, while his legendary status courtesy of this innings seems unsurpassable for the foreseeable future.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Gordon Brooks