Brian Lara fired no fewer than nineteen ODI hundreds in his trailblazing career, many of which came amid sheer pressure with much of his side in dire straits.
One such hundred, as a matter of fact, his penultimate in a rather long career came against the mighty Sri Lankan side with the West Indies not really holding an overly heavy chance of running away with the game.
But Lara was Lara.
Even though Brian Lara achieved incredible feats with the bat, his team wasn’t able to win several times in spite of him producing plenty of runs. It can be disheartening when your efforts don’t pay off, but Brian was smart in not dwelling on the failure and instead continuing forward. He took a positive attitude rather than getting bogged down by disappointment.
I clearly remember his despondent face at the presentation ceremony after he scored a magnificent hundred against Sri Lanka at Kensington Oval during the 2003 home series, which was his 17th ODI career hundred.
Brian Lara’s scintillating century powered the West Indies to an impressive 312-4 placing them as clear favourites. But, Sri Lanka showed resilience and put up a determined fight despite the daunting situation.
Skipper Lara won the toss and took to the crease in the 11th over after Wavell Hinds was trapped lbw by Chaminda Vaas with a score of 10.
Vaas felt sure he’d Lara caught behind for nothing, but umpire Billy Bowden gave Lara the benefit of the doubt. This offered Lara an opportunity, which he didn’t let go to waste.
Brian is a role model for any batsman when it comes to walking. He always takes the conscious decision of walking away from the crease even before umpire raises his finger.
During the commentary session, Tony Greig was vocal in his criticism of Brian for not walking when he was possibly out. However, slow motion replays were not conclusive and Brian had always been of the mindset that he would only walk if he personally felt like he was out; as opposed to relying on others’ judgement.
His batting style started off cautiously before gradually gaining momentum in the middle overs, and then he took it up a notch in the last few overs.
The West Indies were feeling a little anxious when Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan got out. However, Brian Lara clamed the nerves by raising the run rate with Marlon Samuels’ help.
Lara and Samuels’ partnership of 55 balls took them to 109 runs, turning the game in their favor with an explosive display of batting.
Samuels made a significant contribution with his brilliant knock of 56 from 36 balls, but it was Lara’s performance that truly wowed the crowd.
Brian Lara managed to come out on top in a challenging battle against Muralitharan. He showcased his skills with some bold, risky shots against the off-spinner.
note: Prashant Banjare has been an avid Lara fan, adoring and critiquing constructively his most cherished cricketer!
Things looked impossible for Sri Lanka after Brian Lara’s dismissal on 116, which helped West Indies set an enormous 312 runs target in their 50 overs. But, Sri Lanka held their nerve and managed to chase it down on the very last ball with 3 balls in hand, emerging victorious from a thrilling encounter at the Kensington Oval.
Upul Chandana put on an impressive performance as he scored 89 runs, a career-high for himself, helping Sri Lanka secure a sensational four-wicket victory to clinch the three-match series.
Despite producing a great team performance to chase down the target, Sri Lanka were let off the hook by a few dropped catches from West Indies’ fielders. Had they been dismissed early, it could have changed the complexion of the match. Numerous run-outs were squandered, catches were dropped, and the fielding was terrible.
Brian chose not to grumble despite the adverse conditions and instead encouraged his team by noting their youthfulness and growing experience. Throughout the course of his blistering, if also misunderstood career, where it was felt that the man kept to himself and cared less for the team, Lara put his strong leadership skills to motivate what was then a new and rising era for the island nations and the Prince of cricket himself inching closer to his final years.
While we knew and evidently well that he was always an impressive batsman, the outcome of the contest didn’t make it hard to note the hs well as a strong leader as well.