BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Legendary left-hander Brian Lara has recounted how the storied meeting with two close friends in the wee hours of the final day of the third Test against Australia on March 30, 1999 in Bridgetown, helped propel West Indies to an historic win, as he urged the region to find collective resolve to fight the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on social network, Instagram, earlier this week on the March anniversary of the game, the former West Indies captain branded the match “the best five days of cricket I have ever played”, and talked followers through his thoughts as they played out during the enthralling Kensington Oval contest.
Lara, then age 29, unfurled a magnificent unbeaten 153 as West Indies chased down 308 to take a 2-1 lead in the hotly contested four-match series.
The result appeared unlikely when the hosts lost three wickets for six runs in the space of 46 deliveries to stumble to the close on the fourth day on 85 for three, still requiring a further 223 to win on the final day.
“I woke up at 4 am the next morning and called one Nicholas Gomez, my former captain at Fatima College, who travelled to Jamaica [for the second Test] to give me the support he knew I needed a week earlier and he made his way to Barbados as well,” Lara told followers.
“And he and one Hugh Scott (Trinidadian friend) joined me in my room around 4:30 am and from that point, we planned our innings against the Australians.”
He continued: “From start to water break from water break to lunch, from lunch to water break to tea until we got that total. [My approach was] take it easy against the fast bowlers; see them out. You’re better against the spinners, you can attack the spinners, take the chance against the spinners and you’re going to get it done.”
What unfolded on the final day was perhaps the finest Test innings ever seen. Unbeaten on two overnight, the genius Trinidadian clinically set about dismantling the Aussie attack with the artistry of a virtuoso but the precision of a surgeon.
As planned, he exuded caution against the pace attack of Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie but was often savage in attacking leg-spinners Shane Warne and Stuart McGill.
He struck 19 fours and a six off 256 balls in just shy of six hours at the crease, putting on 133 for the sixth wicket with Jimmy Adams (38) and an invaluable 54 for the ninth with Curtly Ambrose (12) amidst heightened tensions.
“It was an unbelievable feeling. My partnership with Jimmy Adams, my partnership with Curtly Ambrose and even with Courtney Walsh there at the end was simply unbelievable,” Lara recalled.
“I was so proud of all my teammates. It was a fighting spirit I’d never seen before but we believed we could win from any position.
“It was immeasurable joy and tears when that drive sped through the covers off Jason Gillespie.”
The Caribbean is currently involved in a battle against the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the most significant public health crisis in modern time.
Already, the region has experienced hundreds of infections and several deaths, with major industries facing closures and economies under threat.
Several Caribbean nations have employed 24-hour curfews to mitigate against the spread of the disease, with Cricket West Indies already forced to postpone or cancel several tournaments on its domestic calendar.
Similar to the famous Test win, Lara said he believed the region could defeat the scourge of COVID-19 with a “disciplined approach”.
“Today we face an enemy that’s winning at the moment but if we take stock of our responsibilities, adhere to our leaders’ cry for a disciplined approach, we will win this Test match as well.”