Durham scorer, Brian Hunt, said he had never worked as hard in his life but it had been worth it. He looked tired, but elated, just like Brian Lara himself.
That same glazed, slightly awed look was on the faces of the 500-plus spectators patiently queueing for completed scorecards after the game. They had seen history made and they wanted to be able to prove it.
In scoring an unbeaten 501 for Warwickshire against Durham yesterday, Lara added the most prized batting record in non-international cricket to the Test equivalent he garnered less than two months ago against England in Antigua. He has, at barely 25, cemented his position with the likes of Bradman, Hobbs and Grace in cricket’s pantheon of greats.
The previous record, held by Hanif Mohammad for 35 years, has always appeared as unattainable as Gary Sobers’ Test record had. It was one of those statistics fans learn as schoolboys and never have to alter. Such is Lara’s appetite for runs one wonders whether this record will last the season.
After breaking the record, Lara said: ‘I don’t think I’m a great cricketer. It’s nice to have records and be on top but I’ve still got a lot of cricket ahead of me and I need to be more consistent.
‘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.’
Of Lara’s seven centuries in his last eight innings this was, ironically, the most fortunate. In its gestation, on Friday he was bowled off a no-ball for 10 and dropped by the wicketkeeper Chris Scott six runs later. Yesterday he gave a difficult chance at 238 and another at 413 – which was fortunately hit in the direction of his team-mate Michael Burns (fielding for Durham), who not surprisingly failed to reach it.
With the game killed as a contest by Saturday’s washout and a weakened Durham’s understandable reluctance to set a target, Lara took a while to reach top gear yesterday, adding 27 runs to his overnight 111 in his first 41 balls.
He then accelerated, adding 147 off the next 78 to be 285 at lunch. Suddenly the records appeared lined up before him and, having asked his captain, Dermot Reeve, not to declare, one by one he knocked them down. At 306 he passed Warwickshire’s highest score, at 406 he passed the highest in England this century. Twenty runs later Archie MacLaren’s 99-year-old record score in England had gone.
A welter of other records went as well, including the most boundaries in an innings and most runs in a day, but by now all attention was on the big one, Hanif’s 499.
Having made 174 runs in the first session, including an enormous six off David Cox over deep midwicket, he added 133 in the second, leaving him 82 short at tea. At this stage, he was feeding the strike to Keith Piper, who went on to a century, although he did take 18 off a Phil Bainbridge over, including an all-run four.
At 497, he played three balls from the occasional bowler John Morris defensively then was surprised to be cracked on the helmet by a bouncer off the fourth.
At this stage, Piper reminded Lara that technically the game could be called off in two balls’ time as there was no prospect of a result. The next ball was driven for four, Lara was engulfed by Piper, and play closed.
Lara, who was strongest cutting and pulling or flicking off his legs, achieved most of the milestones with boundaries, including sixes to pass 200 and Hick’s 405.
Though the record was achieved with an off-driven four off Morris, it should be noted that throughout his innings Durham were trying, both by using proper bowlers and fielding seriously. Wayne Larkins and Morris did bowl 10.5 overs between them but, with David Graveney and Mark Saxelby both injured, Durham were reduced to four front-line bowlers. All of them, including the debutant David Cox, went for more than 150 runs.
Lara revealed afterwards just how much pressure he had been under during the final stages of his innings. ‘I didn’t realise we were in the last over until four balls had been bowled,’ he said. ‘Keith Piper came up to me and said there were only two deliveries left.’
That fourth ball from Morris had hit Lara on his helmet. ‘The blow was a surprise but being told I needed three runs off two balls made me very nervous,’ he said.
In seven innings for Warwickshire Lara has made 1,176 runs at an average of more than 235; in his last eight first-class innings he has scored 1,551 runs at more than 258.
Milestones on the way to 501
- 200 Reaches double-hundred in 224 minutes off 220 balls with 30 fours and two sixes
- 300 Becomes first player to score triple-century at Edgbaston in either domestic or international cricket
- 300 Reaches triple-hundred in 280 minutes off 278 balls with 44 fours and seven sixes
- 305 not out by Frank Foster against Worcestershire at Dudley in 1914
- 306 Sets Warwickshire individual scoring record
- 322 by Viv Richards for Somerset against Warwickshire at Taunton in 1985
- 323 Achieves highest score by a West Indian in England, beating
- 325 Equals Don Bradman’s 1938 achievement of 1,000 runs in seven first-class innings
- 400 Reaches quadruple-hundred in 367 minutes off 350 balls with 53 fours and eight sixes
- 406 Achieves highest score in England this century, beating Graeme Hick’s 405
- 411 Becomes 19th player to score 300 runs in a day 425 Achieves highest ever score in England, beating Archie MacLaren’s 424 for Lancashire against Somerset at Taunton in 1895
- 429 Helps Warwickshire set county record total, beating 657 for 6 v Hampshire in 1899 and 657 for 7 v Glamorgan this season
- 457 Achieves highest individual score in a day, beating the 345 made by Charlie Macartney for Australia against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 1921
- 494 Breaks record for most boundaries in an innings, beating 68 by Percy Perrin for Essex v Derbyshire at Chesterfield in 1904
- 501 Sets all-time individual scoring record