If we ask you to make your best TEST XI of all-time, Brian Charles Lara is unarguably going to be one of the first few names you would want on your team. 11953 runs in 131 Tests at an average of 52.88, studded with 34 centuries and 48 fifties, Lara had quite a career. The left-hander, who made his Test debut in December 1990, slammed three fifties in his first four Tests, but it was on this day in 1993 when the Prince of Trinidad showed everyone he was here to rule red-ball cricket.
The five-match Test series between West India and Australia in 1992-93 was always going to be a close affair. West Indies had already lost players like Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Malcolm Marshall, while some of the other big names were also going to depart soon. Meanwhile, Australia were transforming into a world-beating unit, and West Indies realised it in the first two encounters.
They somehow managed to save themselves from embarrassment in the first Test but were hammered by 139 runs in the second match at the MCG. There were centuries from Mark Waugh and Allan Border, but it was Shane Warne who claimed seven wickets in the second innings to emerge as the player of the match. There was tension in the West Indies dressing room but 23-year-old Lara was unfazed and Australia had no idea what was going to hit them in the third Test in Sydney.
"Heading to Sydney, (it was) a Test venue where West Indies normally don’t play very well, or Australia had the upper hand because it’s a spinning venue. There we were with a bit of a dilemma. Shane Warne, Greg Matthews — Allan Border was there as well — all waiting to take a 2-0 lead in this five-Test match series. I know for a fact there was this sort of nervousness going around the dressing room," Lara recently told foxsports.com.au.
"I remember being on the flight from Melbourne to Sydney, and I told the manager not to worry. I’ll handle Shane Warne. The reason I said it might sound a bit arrogant, but the reason I said it is … we play a lot of spin. I felt that even though I didn’t have the opportunity to face much of him (in Melbourne), I’m accustomed to playing that back-of-the-hand stuff. So I was looking forward to the challenge.”
THE SCG TEST
Having already lost one of the first two Tests, West Indies found themselves in even more trouble when Australia amassed 503/9 (decl) in their first innings after winning the toss. Steve Waugh smashed a hundred, while David Boon, Border and Greg Matthews crafted steady half-centuries. West Indies then lost their openers with just 31 runs on the board, and it felt like they would lose a Test series to Australia for the first time since 1975.
However, skipper Richie Richardson and Lara were having none of it. The two put on 293 runs for the third wicket and got West Indies back in the game. Richardson perished after scoring 109, and West Indies were still 179 runs behind. Lara then found another ally in Keith Arthurton (47) and kept punishing Australian bowlers. In total, Lara smoked 38 boundaries during his 372-ball stay and brought up his maiden double hundred at any level of the game.
With those crisp drives, fierce cut and pull shots, powerful sweeps, classy flicks and authoritative back-foot punches through the off-side, Lara dismantled the Australian bowling attack with utmost ease. “I remember there was an electronic scoreboard at the SCG and with every boundary, or every five runs, there was some kind of record being broken. That also was kind of the impetus I needed to keep going,” said Lara.
“My coach at the time, Rohan Kanhai, said to me during one of the rain breaks, ‘your next innings starts at zero’, which automatically means, ‘stay out there and bat for as long as possible’. And the team needed me to bat. Even though I got a hundred, we were still way short of what Australia put on the board and we didn’t want to lose that Test match. We wanted to come out unscathed and see what we could do with the remaining two.”
Lara was finally run-out after spending close to eight hours at the crease. He might have missed out on a triple century but did the job for his team. Jimmy Adams scored 77* before West Indies were finally bundled out for 606, taking a first-innings lead of 103. Lara’s 277 is still the third-highest individual score by a visiting batter in Australia after England’s Tip Foster (287, Sydney 1903) and New Zealand’s Ross Taylor (290, Perth 2015).
The match ended in a draw but Lara’s knock woke up the entire West Indies unit. The left-handed batter scored only one more fifty in his next three innings but went on to win the last two Tests and claim the series 2-1. The fourth game in Adelaide went down to the wire, with West Indies winning by just one wicket while chasing 186. They saved their best for the last, hammering Australia by an innings and 25 runs in the final Test. Lara got only 16 in that encounter, but we all know what he went on to achieve in his 131-Test long career.