Of the 33 hundreds from which Brian Lara must have derived personal pleasure, only eight have allowed him and the West Indies to rejoice collectively. In crafting his third successive hundred against Pakistan, similar feelings must have hovered. His graceful 122 was not enough to prevent a nine-wicket defeat against Pakistan.
"I was looking to play a long innings, but unfortunately it didn't happen," Lara said. "When I went out to bat today I wanted to bat the whole day and even tomorrow. That's why I didn't take off my helmet when I completed the century."
In forging a 137-run partnership with Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the brief possibility of an unlikely escape appeared, albeit fleetingly. As Lara admitted, had the partnership lasted a little longer, possibilities would have opened up. "If we had added a further 50-60 runs and batted tomorrow there could've been something. We looked pretty good for a session-and-a-half and thought we would take the game into the fifth day."
That stretching the game into another day, and a draw, was the extent of their ambition was the result of a first day gone wrong, "a turning point" as both captains later said. "We knew it was a bit misty and the conditions didn't clear as quickly as we wanted to, but we did play some really poor shots in our meagre total," said Lara, now third in the all-time leading century-makers in Tests behind Sachin Tendulkar (35) and Sunil Gavaskar.
"You can't expect to be bowled out on the first day of a Test because you are then asking your bowlers to do a Herculean job to get yourselves back into the game. When you win the toss you are thinking of batting over 150 overs and we were nowhere near that."
If we had added a further 50-60 runs and batted tomorrow there could've been something. We looked pretty good for a session-and-a-half and thought we would take the game into the fifth day Brian Lara
Much of the positive vibes humming around the West Indies preceding this Test had emanated from their stirring ODI revival; they made the final of both a triangular series in Malaysia and the Champions Trophy in Mumbai. Australia had been defeated during each run, though ultimately the same team proved one hurdle too far.
Their Test form stands in stark contrast: following today's defeat, they have one win in 15. The ability to switch between the two formats has been questioned during this Test. "We have to try and adjust as quickly as possible. It's tough because we've been playing one-day cricket for the last two months and just a two-day game before this Test. It's not an excuse but hopefully we will get better in the remaining two Tests."
The optimist in him refuses to rule out a turnaround - and why not? A few very poor, and critical, decisions, the odd spilled catch and a different game awaited but Lara refused to blame the umpiring. "They are part of the game and you have to accept them," Lara said. "Some days tough decisions go against you and some days they don't. There are still ten days of Test cricket to be played and we are still optimistic of a series win here.
"We have to fire ourselves, we have to dig deep and show a lot more character than we showed in this Test." All of that he did, with 61 in the first innings as well as his hundred. He'll be hoping for the same from a few more of his team-mates as they head to the dust of Multan, where the second Test begins on November 19.