India Pakistan Cricket series - Special Coverage



Lara strikes form as West Indies make a healthy start -
fourth and final test match


ST JOHN'S, Antigua, April 10 - West Indies captain Brian Lara hit his highest score of the series 86 not out, on a rain-hit first day of the fourth and final test against England on Saturday.

Three hours were lost to rain after lunch but on the ground where he hit a then world record best of 375 against England in 1994, Lara made a classy 86 not out as West Indies ended the day on 208 for two, a position of strength they have not experienced in this series so far.

Chris Gayle set the tone with a quickfire 69 before lunch while Ramnaresh Sarwan was unbeaten on 41 with West Indies scoring their runs at almost four an over.

England coach Duncan Fletcher said the flat nature of the pitch meant the bowlers had to be more patient if they are to stop West Indies amassing a big total.

"You can see they have prepared a pretty flat pitch and at some stage Lara was going to get runs," Fletcher said.

"I think we could have kept the pressure on more, but it's a big test for the bowlers now."

Trailing 3-0 and looking to avoid a first ever whitewash on home soil, West Indies won the toss and decided to bat on the same St John's ground that yielded 1,315 runs in the final test against Australia 11 months ago.

While England's bowlers could perhaps be forgiven for not hitting the heights of the opening three tests, West Indies' batsmen at last showed the kind of spirit that had been so sorely lacking.

After a slow start, the decision to bat looked a good one as Gayle punched boundaries almost at will off Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard.


Harmison, needing just six wickets to set a record of 28 wickets in a series between the two sides in the Caribbean, was a little wayward early on and West Indies took advantage.

Only a bowling change brought about the breakthrough for England as Andrew Flintoff trapped Daren Ganga lbw for 10.

After surviving a confident appeal for a catch behind to test debutant Geraint Jones when on nought, Lara never looked back, while Gayle brought up his 14th half-century with a neat push through the covers.

Just as it looked like he and Lara would survive until the interval, Gareth Batty, called in for Ashley Giles who was struggling with a stomach upset, caught Gayle off his own bowling.

"I haven't made many runs lately, so I am very happy with 69," Gayle said, "but I am a bit disappointed to get out at a crucial time.

"Thankfully the captain and Sarwan batted well and hopefully they can cash in now."

The heavens opened during the lunch interval and after 45 minutes of heavy rain, no play was possible before tea, partly due to concerns over the bowlers' run-ups.

When they finally returned at 4.05pm local time, Lara and Sarwan took up where Gayle had left off, picking holes in the England field and showing the concentration and application that had been absent in Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados.

Lara brought up his 44th test half-century with a brutal pull in front of square off Simon Jones - the most expensive of England's bowlers.

Sarwan too played superbly, his only real cause for concern coming when he got an inside edge onto his groin off Batty.

Flintoff returned late on to try to tempt Lara to drive wide outside his off stump but the captain was into his stride by then and survived comfortably.