Nathan Astle’s double hundred against England at Christchurch in 2002

We were days from the nearest road in Nepal when this match took place. When we got back to the land of newspapers, we read the match reports, day-by-day. We couldn’t get our head round this match.

First of all, let’s set the scene. England batted first and promptly lost two wickets in the first over. They recovered to 228 all out, thanks largely to Nasser Hussain’s 106. In reply, New Zealand were toppled by an immense spell of swing bowling by Matthew Hoggard, who took 7-63 in bowling them out for 147.

England’s second innings subsided to 85-4 and then 106-5 and at this point it’s clearly not a batsmen’s game. Then, out of the blue, Graham Thorpe and Andrew Flintoff shared a partnership of 261. Thorpe scored what was at the time, the third fastest Test double hundred off 231 balls. Flintoff weighed in with his debut century, hitting 137 off 163 balls. England eventually declared on 468, setting New Zealand 550 to win. Then Nathan Astle went mental.

New Zealand eventually made 451 and lost the match, but nobody remotely cares about that. In New Zealand’s innings two batsmen passed 50. Mark Richardson hit 76. Nathan Astle hit 222. Not only that, he scored them off 167 balls.

Astle’s first hundred took 114 balls. 100 to 150 took a further 22 balls and 150 to 200 took a mere 17 balls. Seven consecutive Andy Caddick deliveries over the space of two overs went for 4, 6, 6, 4, 6, 6 and 6.

The ninth wicket fell at 333. Nathan Astle clearly still thought that he could win the match. Why? Why did he think this? Not only that, but he thought that he’d try and complete the task within an hour. England bowled good balls; Astle thrashed them for six.

Logic and reason decreed that New Zealand were dead and buried. The history of cricket proved with facts that New Zealand were essentially dead and buried. The loss of nine wickets and the fact that his batting partner was injured should have told Nathan Astle that New Zealand were dead and buried. Nathan Astle just decided to ignore all that. Instead he concentrated on carting the ball over the stands.

This is why we will always love Nathan Astle. He’s the man who out-Shahid-Afridied Shahid Afridi.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

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