Muttiah Muralitharan once said, "Sachin has all the records, but Lara is better."
There must be a reason for which the legendary off-spinner rated Brian Lara above Sachin Tendulkar.
Back in 2001, when West Indies toured Sri Lanka for a 3-match Test series, Muralitharan made life miserable for every Windies batsman, except Lara. The Sri Lankan was declared the best player in the first two matches of the series. However, Lara played Murali with ease and dominated him throughout. The West Indian scored 688 runs in the series at an average of 114. He also collected a double-century in the process.
Brian Lara and his ability to play long innings
Lara had a special ability to play long innings. He scored his first hundred in his fifth Test, against Australia at Sydney in 1993. Instead of throwing away his wicket after reaching the milestone, he went on to make 277 runs. It laid down the marker for what was to follow in the years to come, as Lara crossed 150 on 19 occasions during his Test career.
The left-hander scored 375 against England in 1994, for which he held the record for the highest individual Test score for 9 years. In 2003, Matthew Hayden scored 380 against Zimbabwe, breaking Lara's former record. However, Lara only needed 6 months to reclaim the honor as he smashed a 400* against England in 2004.
Besides holding the record in Tests, Brian Lara also holds the record for the highest individual score in first-class cricket - 501* for Durham against Warwickshire in 1994.
Brian Lara and his epic series against Australia
The elegant southpaw was at his best in the home series against Australia in 1999. Captaining the side, he got off to the worst possible start as West Indies lost the first Test by 312 runs. With pressure mounting on the team, Lara bounced back to score 213 in the second Test, which helped West Indies beat Australia by 10 wickets. In the fourth Test, he made an 83-ball hundred. While both of these knocks were impressive, it was his performance in the fourth innings of the third Test that stood out as one for the ages.
Chasing a target of 308, West Indies were in a spot of bother at 78-3 when Lara came to the crease. They soon lost a couple more wickets and were struggling at 105-5. Lara stitched up a handy 133-run partnership with Jimmy Adams, who made 38. The Windies then lost two more wickets in quick succession and were staring down the barrel at 248-8.
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However, Lara kept his cool and guided the team to an improbable victory with the help of tail-enders Courtney Walsh and Curtley Ambrose. Lara remained unbeaten on 153 against a bowling attack that comprised the likes of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Shane Warne. Wisden rated this knock as the best Test innings in the 1990s.
Brian Lara - an underrated ODI Legend
Although Lara scored 10000+ runs in both Tests and ODIs, people often remember him as a Test great. But he was an ODI great too.
Lara became ICC's No.1 ranked batsman in the limited-overs format just over 2 years after his debut. He held that ranking for 1049 consecutive days.
Lara won the Player of the Match award 30 times in his ODI career. His purple patch ran four consecutive years from 1995 to 1998, where he annually averaged 67.17, 57.67, 50.33, and 55.14, respectively.
The legendary West Indies pacer Michael Holding once said, "I have never seen a batsman play spin and medium-pace better than Lara."
Brian Lara was a genius at work who made everyone fall in love with his batting.