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Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 12:11 GMT
Blonde beats Lara's defences
Brian Lara & Lynnsey Ward
Lara has been accompanied by Ward on tour
Brian Lara's batting slump has been blamed on an 18-year-old English model the West Indies star brought with him to Australia.

The 31-year-old Lara, who scored a first-ball duck and four runs in his two innings in the resounding defeat by Australia in the first Test, has been accompanied on tour by model Lynnsey Ward.

The former Durham County Cricket Club receptionist has been at the side of the star batsman, and has been blamed for the left-hander's lack of Test form.

West Indies coach Roger Harper defended Lara's right to bring his lingerie model to Australia with him.

Girlfriends permitted

"Team policy actually allows the payers to bring their girlfriends and wives on tour providing they have the permission of team management," Harper said.

I don't understand why Brian is being singled out
  Roger Harper, West Indies coach
"As a matter of fact, as the tour progresses a number of us will have our families here.

"I don't understand why Brian is being singled out."

But Sir Vivian Richards, the team's former coach, said his only partner on tour was "my cricket bat".

"When you are on tour you have a group of guys and this is what you're here on tour for. You enjoy things together and achieve things together."

Sir Viv Richards
Richards: His only tour partner was his bat
Ward, selected as the Millennium Babe by English tabloid the Daily Star, accompanied Lara to a team outing at the Dreamworld theme.

Her 33-year-old mother, Claire, said the pair had eyes only for each other.

"It was love at first sight. They're really happy together.

"They fell for each other straight away. They enjoyed a couple of dates and have been together ever since," she told the Daily Star.

Media intrusion

Harper said the media's prying coverage into Lara's private life was distracting his team as they prepared for the second Test which begins in Perth on Friday.

"Naturally the publicity can be a source of distraction and naturally it's a great challenge to stay focused but that's what it's all about," Harper said.

Team manger Ricky Skerritt said other wives and girlfriends were due to join the tour party soon, but for the time being Lara was the only one with a partner on tour.

"She's out here as Brian's guest. She came out when we came out and has been based in Sydney on an assignment and she's been visiting from time to time," he said.

Ward, originally from Pelton, near Chester-le-Street made her modelling debut at 17 and has previously been linked with Formula One racing driver Eddie Irvine, has mingled with the England football team at a party and modelled at an Elton John charity show.

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See also:

04 Nov 00 |  Cricket
Windies rally behind Lara
22 Nov 00 |  Cricket
Windies bank on Lara
02 Nov 00 |  Cricket
West Indies tour fixtures
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