Thirty years ago today, West Indies cricketer Brian Lara made history (2024)

Thirty years ago today, West Indies cricketer Brian Lara made history (1)

Brian Lara in Manchester, England, April 2006. Photo by Georgia Popplewell, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED).

Thirty years ago, at about a quarter to noon on April 18 1994, young Trinidadian cricketer Brian Lara, quickly garnering a reputation for his skill as a left-handed batsman, was in the crease at the Antigua Recreation Ground. The West Indies were playing a Test series against England. Chris Lewis bowled short, and with one whooping crack of his bat, Lara broke Sir Garfield Sobers’ record of the most runs in a Test match — 365 against Pakistan in Jamaica in 1958 — by playing the ball all the way to the legside boundary to bring his total to 375.

Until that moment, Sobers’ record had held for 36 years. It was an astounding feat for a 24-year-old, who was appearing in just his 16th Test match, made even more so by the fact that England seemed to be coming back to life. While the visitors had lost the first three test matches, they had just experienced an encouraging victory in Barbados, putting some competition back into the series — and West Indies cricket fans were there for every bit of the excitement.

England had started off well enough. Though they lost the coin toss and were sent in to field, they secured a couple of early wickets, leaving Lara and Jamaican batsman Jimmy Adams as partners. Lara, who could at times be inconsistent, seemed calm and settled right from the start, batting at a steady pace and not taking any unnecessary risks. By the end of Day 1, he and Adams took the West Indies to 274-3, with Lara himself scoring 164 of those runs.

On Day 2, joined by Guyana's 19-year-old Shivnarine Chanderpaul in his Test series debut, Lara had reached 320 not out by the close of play. Day 3, April 18, was the day he would make history. Lara took to the field as single-minded as he ever was, with an ease about him that belied his steely determination to break the record. Making it even more special was the fact that Sobers was in the stands.

The atmosphere at the cricket ground was electric; fans just knew the time was drawing near, and they wanted to be there to savour the moment. The Antigua Recreation Ground is a small venue, able to accommodate just about 10,000 fans, but hundreds of thousands more were watching on television, in the Caribbean and England naturally, but also in cricketing countries around the world.

By the time Lara matched Sobers’ 365, spectators were cheering and singing. It seemed only a matter of time. England's left-arm spin bowler Phil Tufnell saw the writing on the wall and attested to having had “a quick word” with Chris Lewis, who was bowling the innings: “[I] told him to make him do something to earn the runs — don't just give him one off the hips so he can clip it. Chris decided to bowl him a bumper and he just pulled it away with ease and then the whole place erupted.”

The minute the ball reached the boundary unblocked, fans rushed the pitch, the police officers on its circumference either unable or unwilling to restrain them. Lara, with a huge smile on his face, punched the air in victory and kissed the pitch. Sobers was soon escorted onto the field to congratulate the new record holder. It was one for the history books — the two top holders of the highest score in a Test innings at the time, were both from the West Indies.

It took officials about 20 minutes to clear the field and resume play; Lara was eventually caught out for 375 by Jack Russell, off a ball delivered by Andy Caddick. In the 12 hours and 46 minutes Lara remained in the crease, he faced 538 balls, scoring fours off 45 deliveries.

On the heels of his accomplishment, the government of Trinidad and Tobago gifted Lara prime land overlooking the Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain on which to build his home. Soca songs were written about the feat. He also signed what was, at the time, a hefty GBP 40,000 contract (just shy of USD 50,000) to play county cricket for Warwickshire in England. Just over six weeks later, Lara scored 501 not out for the team, making him the holder of the highest scores in both Test and first-class cricket.

To this day, he still does. Although Lara's 375 was bettered by Australia's Matthew Hayden, who scored 380 playing against Zimbabwe in Perth during the 2003-4 season, Lara still holds the record for the highest individual test score: the 400 not out he made against England at the Antigua Recreation Ground, also during the 2003-4 season.

Thirty years later, Trinbagonian cricket fans still remember Lara's feat with pride. On Facebook, Skye Hernandez recalled, “375 runs that ignited the cricketing world. Brian Lara broke Gary Sobers’ record at St John’s Recreation Ground, Antigua, at 11:46 a.m. on April 18, 1994, earning his first world record. I watched this video with the same tension, excitement, and emotion as all those years ago. […] I remember a bunch of us leaving work [to] see the motorcade with Lara and Chanderpaul pass on Frederick Street. Unforgettable times.”

Artist Shaun Riaz, who posted a drawing of Lara, added, “30 years ago today, on April 18, 1994, the Prince of Port of Spain claimed the world record for the highest innings in Test Cricket History. Thank you Brian Lara for your service to Windies Cricket and the gentleman’s game.”

Lara retired from international cricket in 2007 at the age of 38, but is still very much involved in the sport as a commentator and avid supporter of West Indies cricket.

Thirty years ago today, West Indies cricketer Brian Lara made history (2024)


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