On June 6, 1994, Brian Charles Lara did the unthinkable! 26 years ago, the 'Prince of Trinidad' achieved immortality when he smashed the highest score in first-class cricket history: 501 not out. The elegant left-hander surpassed Hanif Mohammad's individual score of 499 while playing a County Championship match for Warwickshire against Durham at Edgbaston. 62 fours and 10 maximums, Lara scored those runs off 427 deliveries. This is one of those records which might remain unconquered for many years to come.
The West Indian great wouldn't even have been in England that summer if not for Manoj Prabhakar's injury. The Indian fast bowler was signed as Allan Donald's replacement who was on international duty. Prabhakar however arrived in England with stitches still fresh from an ankle surgery and the deal was called off. Luckily, the club chairman MJK Smith was in West Indies for the England tour and he signed up Lara on a £40,000 deal for the season. This deal was made just a few days before Lara plundered the world record score of 375 in Antigua and broke Sir Garry Sobers's record of 365*.
If that Test record wasn't enough, Lara, less than two months later, batted for almost eight hours against Durham and became the first and only man on the planet to score 500 runs in an innings. The left-hander came into this match having scored six centuries in his last seven County Championship innings.
Opting to bat, Durham amassed 556/8 (decl) in their first innings on the back of John Morris' 204 and fifties from four other batsmen, but they had no idea what was about to hit them.
THE COLOSSAL KNOCK
Warwickshire lost their opener Dominic Ostler at the score of just 8 and in came Lara at No. 3. The left-hander got a couple of very lucky reprieves early in his innings. He was on 12 when Anderson Cummins knocked over his leg-stump, only to have overstepped and then the wicketkeeper Chris Scott dropped an easy catch when Lara was on 18. It turned out to be the costliest drop in the history of cricket as Lara made them pay big time. Then the left-arm spinner David Graveney got injured during the match and things kept getting worse and worse for Durham.
Lara was unbeaten on 111 by the end of Day 2, while the third day was washed out. The match was paused for a day after the third day and when play resumed on the fourth and final day of the match, Lara ended up scoring 390 from just 280 balls on Day 4. The strokemaker smashed 174 runs before lunch and found good support from Roger Twose and Trevor Penney. He also shared an unbeaten 322-run stand with wicketkeeper-batsman Keith Piper who himself scored an unbeaten hundred.
Lara started cautiously on the final day and managed 27 off his first 41 deliveries. He then accelerated, slamming 147 off the next 78 balls to be on 285 at lunch. Lara added 133 runs in the second session, leaving him 82 short of Hanif Mohammad's record score. Lara was on 497 when he defended three consecutive deliveries from the part-timer Morris. The fourth one was a well-directed bouncer and it hit Lara on the helmet. His partner Piper then reminded him that the match could technically be called off after the end of this over and the very next delivery was driven for four, helping Lara touch the 500-run mark.
"I didn't realise we were in the last over until four balls had been bowled. Keith Piper came up to me and said there were only two deliveries left. Records are there to be broken and I'm happy to be the one doing it. If the records I have set are broken I hope I am the one doing it. It's hard to compare my Test 375 with 501 here. You just have to cherish both of them," Lara said after that knock.
Lara finished the season with 2066 runs at a stunning average of 89.82.
The left-hander had an uncanny gift of registering big scores in red-ball cricket. His highest Test score of 375 was broken by former Australia opener Matthew Hayden who scored 380 against Zimbabwe in October 2003 in Perth. Lara however reclaimed the record in April 2004 when he slammed an unbeaten 400 against England, once again in Antigua.