Rewind March 11, 1996: when Lara single handedly brought down South Africa
The date was March 11 but the year was 1996. The sun was shining and the weather was sweet. Though, not so much for South Africa and only for the West Indies.
Truth be told, it wasn’t much of a surprise as to why.
In what was then the third quarter final of the much celebrated and widely watched Wills World Cup, Brian Lara took the centre stage and became its highlight.
He played an inning that in all these years, and it’s been 27 long years, to be precise, hasn’t been forgotten.
Though, factually speaking, Lara had always been a giant killer in his career; crushing the hopes and joys of opponents far bigger and better than his own side. But where it came to one day international cricket, more specifically speaking, he quite simply, horse whipped the Proteas on two killer occasions.
Each of them, rather interestingly, came during the big World Cup stage.
While we still remember- and probably will forever- the 2003 opening game of the then World Cup where Lara waged a solo assault against the Proteas in their own land, his first big hunt, came miles away from the balmy comfort of slow Caribbean pitches.
It was at Karachi. It was against a mighty Proteas side that featured high quality spin and fast bowling composed of legends in their own right- think Pollock, Matthews, McMillan and Symcox.
And it was a World Cup where much of West Indies batting besides featuring Jimmy Adams and a relatively young and slightly tentative Shiv Chanderpaul came to rest on their prodigal son- Brian Charles Lara.
And the Trinidadian legend didn’t disappoint.
In taking just 96 deliveries, which is no more than 16 overs, Lara raised 111 runs of his own and in the process, quite simply, dislodged the Proteas bowlers.
Amid sweltering heat and the pressure of expectations, Lara aligned his destructive batting to a sense of style as only he could as the South Africans were put to the sword in an effort that was of absolute high quality.
Though it’s not that only Lara produced the runs. Chanderpaul’s vital and timely knock of 56 enabled the West Indies to a steady start from up top the order.
But the watchful Guyanese, who was then playing his maiden World Cup was a touch more conservative in his approach. The runs had to flow and one had to up the ante of scoring.
So in a contest where the great Richie Richardson accounted only 10, with Roger Harper scoring merely 9 and Roland Holder contributing no more than 5, Lara produced a combination of thunderbolt and lightening and owned the scene.
Ferocious against anything bowled in the slot or the arc as they say and sublime in his production of cuts and pulls, it was quite simply Lara’s day; a day of ethereal magic where the great South Africans were seen licking their wounds.
A rare occasion where even the great Johnty Rhodes couldn’t appear speedier than the exceptionally fast outfield.
With shots all around the wicket, Lara was at his best; his century truly lit up a World Cup where other greats, such as Gary Kirsten and Mark Waugh, to name a few produced dazzling tons of the highest class.
But it’s a shame that despite Lara being on song, his West Indies side, though power packed with a bevy of great fast bowling talents in Walsh and Ambrose couldn’t go all the way. Maybe what comes to haunt them to this day is the manner of their sad collapse in the big semis stage against tue Australians.
But before that heartbreak, before the reversal of fate, there was Brian Lara with his exceptional 111; the kind of knock that’s traversed folklore and generations and been a favourite of many, whether one speaks of the great Tendulkar or of contemporary generation’s batting sensation Shai Hope.