Moments In Time: A prince becomes a king - The Day Lara toppled Sobers

By March 30, 2020

Twenty-six years ago, a diminutive but powerful Trinidad and Tobago batsman, long known for his genius, became the highest run-scorer in a single Test innings, overtaking the man, who before his era, was regarded as possibly the finest to ever live.

Sir Garfield Sobers had a record, 365 not out, standing for 36 years, but on April 18, 1994, Brian Charles Lara cemented his name in history as one of the greatest to ever hold a bat, scoring 375 against England at the Antigua Recreation Ground.

The moment is worth remembering.

Before we get to Lara though, let’s look at the people who have held the record over the years. Of course, that ends with Lara, who broke the record for most runs in a Test innings 10 years after his journey to the rarified air of the top of the game.

In 1884, Billy Murdoch, the Australian captain, became the first man to score a double century, helping his side to 551 in a draw against England with 211.

It wasn’t until 1903 that Murdoch was overhauled, interestingly enough, by an England captain, Tip Foster. Foster, on debut for England, scored 287 against Australia in a five-wicket win.

Triple centuries would come next, as another Englishman, Andy Sandham, broke Foster’s record against the West Indies at Sabina Park in 1930, scoring 325 in a mammoth 849. The match ended in a draw.

The man, who many believe to be the greatest batsman of all time, underpinned by his 99.94 average in Test cricket, Australia’s Don Bradman, would not be left out. He smashed Sandham’s record just three months later, scoring 334 against, you guessed it, England. Bradman was just 21 at the time and scored 309 of those runs on the first day of the Test.

Another Englishman would hold the record in 1933, Wally Hammond scoring an aggressive 336 not out, slamming 10 sixes and 34 fours.

Sir Len Hutton, a man who ranks as one of the most technically correct batsmen the game has seen and with a 56.67 average and one of the best batsmen of all time, scored 364 against Australia in 1938.

20 years later, Sobers ended his innings on 365 not out in an innings and 174-run win over Pakistan at Sabina Park in Kingston.

After Lara’s 375 in Antigua in 1994, Australia’s Matthew Hayden helped his side to 735-6 declared against Zimbabwe in 2003. Hayden’s innings would include 11 sixes and 38 fours.

Lara, however, would re-take the record, becoming the first man to hold it twice when he scored 400 not out against England at the same ground he first set it.

Ten years earlier, however, Lara was in incredible form.

A few weeks earlier, he had scored more than 500 runs in a first-class innings.

Lara was a genius who entertained by playing shots that were not risk-free, though for him there was much less risk because he was so good.

In this innings, Lara would make no mistakes. He showed he could bat for long periods without making them as he did a year earlier when he was run out for 277 against Australia.

The series in the Caribbean had already been won, with the West Indies leading 3-1. The visitors had won the first Test in Barbados but having lost the next three, England had their pride to play for. Afterall 3-2 looks much better on paper than 3-1.

Things started well for England with the West Indies losing two wickets for just 12 runs on the morning of the opening day.

Things were looking good early but Lara was not in the mood to do anything else score runs; lot's of them.

He scored 164 runs on that day. He was patient to start, going about the business of rebuilding the innings. His first 50 came from 121 deliveries, but he soon accelerated, bringing up his 100 from 180 balls. From there to 150 was also slower, as he took 240 deliveries to get there. He would again accelerate to get to 200.

The point of all that data is to prove just how in control Lara was of the innings, changing pace at will, pacing himself for the long haul.

It was textbook batting, it was a teaching moment, as Lara made England’s bowler’s toil.

"We realised the record was on quite early because of the nonchalant way he went from 100 to 150 to 200. Once he got to about 250, you began to wonder where it was all going to end. By that stage, you have tried all your tactics and your variety, it has not really got you anywhere and it begins to boil down to if he will make a mistake," recalled ex-England paceman, Angus Fraser.

But the writing was on the wall even before that, according to Phil Tufnell, a former England spinner.

"I bowled my first over and was putting my jumper back on when Mike Atherton, the England captain, came over to me and said: 'Brian's batting well today, he might break the record.' He was only on 60! Athers was a clever bloke and he got it spot on," said Tufnell.

But the moment that was most significant wasn’t the score Lara would end up on. It was when England, who had been trying to keep Lara off strike to make him doubt himself or lose his rhythm, tried to stop him from scoring the single it would take to get him past Sobers.

It didn’t work.

Bringing in the field when Lara was on 365, Chris Lewis ran up and bowled a short-rising delivery. Lara did not hold back, pulling Lewis to the midwicket boundary with the assuredness that he was no longer a prince, but a king.

Paul-Andre Walker

Paul-Andre is the Managing Editor at SportsMax.tv. He comes to the role with almost 20 years of experience as journalist. That experience includes all facets of media. He began as a sports Journalist in 2001, quickly moving into radio, where he was an editor before becoming a news editor and then an entertainment editor with one of the biggest media houses in the Caribbean.

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