It was on this day in 1996 that Brian Lara scored a hundred to almost single-handedly eliminate South Africa from the World Cup.
South Africa lost the quarter-final in Karachi by 19 runs after failing to chase down 265 for victory, instead succumbing to 245 all out.
The match is mainly remembered for two reasons. South Africa leaving out Allan Donald and picking Paul Adams instead and for Lara’s brilliant 111 off 94 balls.
Lara is considered by many to be the best left-handed batsman to ever play the game. In the space of two months in 1994, Lara’s 375 and 501 not out broke world records for the highest Test and first-class scores. During an inventive but largely fruitless spell as captain of a fading team, Lara reiterated his genius by single-handedly defying the 1998-99 Australian tourists with a sequence of 213, 8, 153 not out and 100.
For a while, excess weight and hamstring problems hampered his once-lightning footwork, and the torrent of runs became an occasional spurt. But after Garry Sobers suggested a tweak to his flourishing backlift, Lara returned to his best in Sri Lanka in 2001-02, with 221 and 130 in one Test and 688 runs – a record 42% of West Indies’ output – in the series, and reclaimed the captaincy the following year.
The task proved as hard second time round, leading a side where he was far and away the best player and where discipline was a constant worry. He led them to defeat for a second time in South Africa, and then lost to England in the Caribbean, too. But then, just when all hope seemed to have deserted West Indies cricket, Lara responded to the prospect of a home series whitewash with an astonishing unbeaten 400 in the final Test against England in Antigua. In doing so, he became the first man to reclaim the world Test batting record, a feat that ensured he would stand alongside Shane Warne as the most charismatic cricketer of the modern era.
Lara finished his career having played 131 Tests in which he scored 11 953 runs at an average of 52.88 including 34 hundreds. He scored 10 405 runs in the 299 ODIs he played at an average of 40 and 19 hundreds.