April 12, 2004 – West Indies vs England, Antigua: On this day, Brian Charles Lara became the first man on the planet to score 400* in a single Test innings. Regarded as one of the greatest batting performances of all time, Lara’s record has been untouched for the last 16 years. The record remains unlikely to be broken for many more years to come.
West Indies had lost the first three of the 4-match Test series. Looking to salvage some pride, the Windies decided to bat first on the dry Antigua wicket. The West Indies batsman had struggled against the English bowlers throughout the series. Hence, the obvious ploy was to get as many runs as possible and then try to dismiss the Englishmen cheaply. When Lara went into bat at 33/1, openers Darren Ganga and Chris Gayle had almost seen the new ball through. The southpaw, with the explosive Chris Gayle took some time to settle but kept the scoreboard ticking. Gayle on the other hand enjoyed at the bowler’s mercy scoring a quickfire 69 as hosts went into lunch at 98/2.
Most play after lunch was cut short owing to the storm that hit the Antigua islands. However, what followed was not short of thunderbolts. Brian Lara built a stable partnership with Ramnaresh Sarwan and the pair went on to share a century run stand. They finished Day 1 at 208/2 (Lara 86*, Sarwan 41*). For the first time in the entire series, the Windies batsman looked much in command.
Lara’s innings had everything. Exquisite drives on the off, elegant strokes through the on, effective pulls, powerful shots behind square and most importantly, the sound defenses. Brian Lara broke no sweat as he aced past his hundred on Day 2. Even as Sarwan was dismissed for 90, R Powell (36), R Hinds (23) and R Jacobs (107*) ably supported Lara. He brought up his 7th double hundred and went on to complete his 2nd triple hundred by the end day 2. Lara demolished the English bowling attack scoring 227 runs alone on a single day.
Matthew Hayden had broken Lara’s record for highest score by a Test batsman (375, also vs England at Antigua, 1994). With a sight of taking back the title from the Australian, Lara marched on towards a well celebrated 400* on Day 3. Though he also decided to declare the innings (751/7) after achieving the milestone, the excitement and energy in it’s celebration suggested that the legend would have no problems continuing even further whatsoever.
After spending two and a half days on the field, the tired English batsmen could only manage 225 in their first innings. However, they succeeded to play all the remaining overs, having asked to bat again on Day 4. The match ended in a lame draw. But Lara’s innings gave him and West Indies cricket an identity that is impossible to forget.
Interestingly enough, Brian Lara also holds the highest score in first-class cricket (501* vs Durham, 1994). His records speak for itself against critics who called him a selfish cricketer. Michael Vaughan, who captained the side on the receiving end of this onslaught was all praises for Brian Lara. He said, “We tested him with a few things throughout but he was much better than us. He will go down as one of the greats of the game and it will take some player and some performance to beat his four hundred.”