Brian Lara, Matthew Hayden, 300s and more…

Brian Lara, Matthew Hayden, 300s and more…

3 minutes read

One a swashbuckling opener and one a batting mainstay. One stood tall at 1.88 m while the other punched shots at 1.73 m. The irony between the careers of Matthew Hayden and Brian Lara is that they were contrasting and similar in the same way. Similar in the sense that both used to score heavy runs when they used to and contrasting in the sense that Lara ended up being one of the most celebrated cricketers of West Indies and Hayden lived in the shell of other Australian greats during that era.

There was a time when Sir Don Bradman tormented bowlers with his batting and scored big runs at will consistently. Scoring 300 became a big deal since, and was regarded as a big landmark, thus drawing comparisons of a batsman with The Don himself. When Sir Gary Sobers scored 365, it was thought that it was the pinnacle of Test batting and was not replicable, even by Sir Gary Sobers himself.

But, cricketing barriers of space and time were broken when Brian Charles Lara scored 400 in April 2004. However, the story of this 400 dates long back to 1994. Back when Test cricket still had rest days, Brian Lara batted for close to 13 hours to score of what could be called only an exceptional innings. Now, during this time, Matthew Hayden was just 2 test matches old. Funny how things turn out to be, isn’t it!

The biggest debate that has always rattled the cricketing fraternity is “Does the opposition matter?”. If you ask a statistician, he’ll ask you to look in the highest score columns. But, if you ask a critic, he’ll ask you to consider the nature of pitch, the quality of opposition and the rhythm of opposition players on the given day. Let’s go for broke and consider the statistician’s approach. Point in picture, Matthew Hayden scored 380 against Zimbabwe on a bouncy Perth wicket in 2003, roughly 9 years since Lara in 1994. No, it was not a run-feast like the one Lara scored 375 in, as Australia won the match by an innings victory. But, the cricketing spheres were given a lot to think about- “Can the 400-run barrier be broken?”; “What will Brian Lara do?”. Side note, Lara called up Hayden to congratulate on the latter’s innings.

Cut to April 2004, exactly 6 months after Hayden had broken Lara’s long standing record, Lara continued his long standing love affair with the Antigua cricket ground to reclaim his record by scoring 400 runs in a single innings of a test match. It was a scintillating knock. And much like 1994, the ground was same, the opposition was the same and the result was the same. But, none of that mattered as the match was more than just that; it was all about Brian Lara. How the world was left awestruck was just extraordinary. Matthew Hayden later claimed that he knew that Brian Lara would break his record of 380 runs sooner or later. Who knew it would be just 6 months later!

Brian Lara, Matthew Hayden, 300s and more...

This unsaid on-field cricketing rivalry meant the bowlers went through hell, batting complexes were broken down, and new benchmarks were set. However, it’s been close to 12 years since, and the closest someone came to breaking the record was Mahela Jayawardene in 2006 when he scored 374 in the 624-run stand with Kumar Sangakkara.

Batting standards have changed to such extent that a ‘300’ in modern-day cricket is much celebrated that it was during the times of Lara and Hayden. Strike rates have increased and bowlers have become smarter. In retrospect, it’d be safe to say that it was a once-in-a-lifetime innings and it would only take another one of that kind to break it.

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