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Astle~~s double century re-affirms glorious uncertainties

Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2002, 21:21 [IST]
 
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Astle's blazing double century re-affirms game's glorious uncertainties Nathan Astle of New Zealand set ablaze the Jade Stadium in Christchurch on March 16, 2002 when he cracked the fastest double century in the history of Test cricket against England.

As it came in the fourth innings of a Test, the quality of Astle's innings occupies that much higher footing in one of the finest exhibitions of batsmanship ever witnessed. Astle belted 222 of 168 balls in just 231 minutes. His double hundred came in 153 balls and thus he beat the world record for the fastest double century in a Test held by Adam Gilchrist of Australia who had taken 212 balls to achieve the feat in the first Test against South Africa at Johannesburg in February 2002. When Gilchrist broke the record, it had stood in the name of Ian Botham of England for nearly two decades. It was therefore assumed that Gilchrist's record would remain untouched for some years to come. But cricket is such an uncertain game that Astle upset all calculations and broke Gilchrist's record within a month. His innings included 28 fours and 11 sixes. He was in such a devastating form that his first fifty came in 54 balls, second in 60 balls, 3rd in a hurricane 22 balls and the 4th in a savage 17 balls which meant that he scored the second century in just 39 balls - an awesome performance by any standards and a record in itself. This had to be seen to be believed. Even the great master blaster Sir Vivian Richards would have felt envious of Astle's superlative batting performance. Astle demoralised the England bowlers to such an extent that they did not know where to pitch the ball. Andrew Caddick who took six wickets in the 2nd innings of New Zealand and threatened to run through the end of the innings suffered the ignominy of conceding 25 runs in an over including three consecutive sixes by Astle. The 1st innings hero Mathew Hoggard who had taken seven wickets in New Zealand's first innings was made to look innocuous when Astle thudded his deliveries to all parts of the ground. The following are the first six fastest double centuries in terms of balls in Test cricket (in order of number of balls taken to complete the double hundred):

Sl NoPlayerForAgD/C in VenueYear
1NJ AstleNZEng153 ballsChristchurch2001/02
2AC GilchristAusSA212 ballsJohannesburg200102
3IT BothamEngInd220 ballsThe Oval1982
4GP ThorpeEngNZ231 ballsChristchurch2001/02
5CG GreenidgeWIEng232 ballsLords1984
6CH LloydWIInd240 ballsBombay1974/75When the ninth wicket of New Zealand fell at the score of 333 it seemed all was lost as only the injured Chris Cairns had to bat. New Zealand at the start were never in the race for victory after England on the third day of the Test on 15th March had set a mammoth 550 runs target for a win. What had appeared to be a low scoring match when England folded up for a moderate 228 in the first innings on the first day of the Test and in turn New Zealand was skittled out for a paltry 147, suddenly assumed enormous proportion as England recovered to amass a total of 468 for eight declared in its 2nd innings when Graham Thorpe with his first double century and Andrew Flintoff with his equally brilliant maiden century tore apart the New Zealand bowling. None expected Cairns to bat also when the 9th wicket fell considering that New Zealand had to make 217 runs for a win and Astle had completed his century. So there was nothing left in the match and only the last act had to be performed. But the duo of Cairns and Astle must have thought of some other plan and although they knew that the writing was on the wall, they were keen to give the cricketing public some thing in return to cherish for a lifetime. And what a feast they gave to them. In one of the most remarkable partnerships for the last wicket they added 118 runs and the contribution of Cairns was a mere 23 of 29 balls. It is nothing new that a century partnership came for the 10th wicket because there had been 15 such instances before this. It may be mentioned here that Astle has the distinction of figuring twice in these partnerships - a feat no one has performed before. For New Zealand this was the 4th occasion wherein it had put up a century stand for the last wicket - only second team in the world after England to perform it on so many occasions. Also New Zealand shares with Pakistan the world record for the best partnership for the last wicket, which is 151. What was significant was that this pair took the score from 333 to 451 when New Zealand was placed in a desperate position. The pair very nearly masterminded the attack to win the match itself but in the end it was a losing battle of the highest quality. It was no doubt defeated but never disgraced. Nasser Hussain - the captain of England team must have heaved a sigh of relief for having set the target beyond 500 and at the sight of seeing Astle return to the pavilion when James Foster ultimately took the catch. Incidentally it happened to be Foster's 5th catch of the innings. R W Taylor of England shares with New Zealand's I D S Smith and Pakistan's Wasim Bari for most dismissals in an innings, which is 7. Including Taylor, now 10 wicket- keepers from England have accomplished the feat of effecting 5 or more dismissals in an innings on 20 occasions. R C Russels has done it on most occasions - five times while A J Stewart follows him with 4 such occasions and Taylor has done it thrice. Apart from these three wicket- keepers, the others who have effected five or more dismissals in an innings for England are J T Murray, C M W Read, J G Binks, J M Parks (2), A P E Knott, C J Richards and now James Foster. Those who have performed this feat against New Zealand are:

Most dismissals against NZ by England (5 or more in an innings)
CMW Read6 dismissals1st TestBirmingham 1999
JM Parks 5 dismissals1st TestChristchurch 1965/66
RW Taylor5 dismissals2nd TestNottingham 1978
J Foster5 dismissals1st TestChristchurch 2001/02Most dismissals against New Zealand by England (5 or more in an innings): Though New Zealand lost the Test by 98 runs it had won the hearts of many even in the loss. For the second time in Test history Astle had proved to be a thorn for England insofar as 10th wicket partnerships are concerned as Astle had put on unfinished 106 runs with Danny Morrison on an earlier occasion at Auckland in 1996/97 and had helped New Zealand in wiping out the deficit and saving the match. Even the English skipper Hussain was appreciative of his innings and as a true sportsman patted Astle on the back when the latter's innings came to an end. The following are the16 instances in which 10th wicket century partnerships have occurred.

Century Partnerships for 10th wkt
RunsPartnersForAgVenueYear
151Azar Mahmood/Mushtaq AhmedPakSARawalpindi1997/98
151RO Collinge/BF HastingsNZPakAuckland1972/73
133Wasim Bari/Wasim RajaPakWIBridge Town1976/77
130RE Foster/W RhodesEngAusSydney1903/04
128K Higgs/JA SnowEngWIThe Oval1960
127AA Mailey/JM TaylorAusEngSydney1924/25
124SL Boock/JG BracewellNZAusSydney1985/86
120WW Armstrong/RA DuffAusEngMelbourne1901/02
118NJ Astle/CL CairnsNZEngChristchurch2001/02
117*P Willey/RGD WillisEngWIThe Oval1980
109HR Adhikari/Ghulam AhmedIndPakDelhi1952/53
106*NJ Astle/DK MorrisonNZEngAuckland1996/97
106CL Hooper/CA WalshWIPakSt Johns1992/93
104Amir Elahi/Zulfiqar AhmedPakIndMadras1952/53
103AR Caddick/AJ StewartEngAusBirmingham2001
103AJ Bell/HG Owen SmithSAEngLeeds1929Astle during the course of his blistering innings, on 87 reached a personal milestone of 3000 run mark in Tests. This was the 87th innings of his 51st Test after making debut against Zimbabwe in the 1st Test at Hamilton in 1995/96. At the end of this Test he has 3135 runs from 51 Tests. It is interesting to note that at Johannesburg when Adam Gilchrist scored a double century he had passed the 2000 run-mark. Astle went on into improve his own performance against England surpassing his 102* at Auckland in 1996/97 and also recorded his career best highest individual score leaving way behind his 156* against Australia at Perth in 2001/02. This was Astle's 8th century in Test cricket and his first double century. Astle made his international Test debut against Zimbabwe in the 1st Test at Hamilton in 1995/96. He is a right-handed batsman and bowls right arm medium fast. He has proved to be a useful all-rounder in the shorter version of the game also.
Break up for Astle's 3,000 runs in Tests
MINORunsHSAveCFZCt
Aus9172608156*40.531216
Eng814159722245.923--7
Ind4712497441.5-217
Pak57-22113.14--24
SA610131369*34.78-2-5
SL59-2415326.78-213
WI4714381257322-2
Zim915166214147.292329
BD11-555----
           
Total:51877313522238.23813743
(Read as matches (M), innings (I), not out/s (NO), runs, Highest (HS), average (Ave), centuries (C), fifties (F), zeroes (Z) and catches (Ct).This was the 12th occasion on which 400 plus runs were recorded in the 4th innings of a Test and the 3rd highest among all time 4th innings in a Test match, surpassing England's 654 for five against South Africa at Durban in 1938/39 which ended in a draw and India's 445 against Australia at Adelaide in 1977/78 which India lost. New Zealand has now become the only team to lose a Test even after scoring 450 runs in the 4th innings. New Zealand had scored over 400 runs in the 4th innings of a Test earlier when it had made 440 also against England at Nottingham in 1973. It is curious to note that of the 12 instances, England has been at the receiving end on as many as seven occasions.

Double Centuries by New Zealanders in Tests
Sl NoPlayerScoreAgTestVenueYear
1MD Crowe299SL1stWellington1990/91
2BA Young267*SL1stDunedin1996/97
3GM Turner259WI4thGeorge Town1971/72
4GT Dowling239Ind2ndChristchurch1967/68
5B Sutcliffe230*Ind3rdDelhi1955/56
6GM Turner223*WI1stKingston1971/72
7NJ Astle222Eng1stChristchurch2001/02
8MS Sinclair (On Debut)214WI2ndWellington1999/00
9MP Donnelly206Eng2ndLords1949
10MS Sinclair204*Pak2ndChristchurch2000/01Astle became only the 8th New Zealander to score a double century and wiped out the long standing record for the highest score by a NZ batsman against England which had stood in the name of M P Donnelly when he had scored 206 in the second Test at Lords in 1949. Martin Crowe who has made 299 in the 1st Test against Sri Lanka at Wellington in 1990/91 holds the record for highest individual score by a New Zealander against any team. Glen Turner and Matthew Sinclair are the only New Zealand batsmen to have scored a double century twice in their career.

400 in 4th innings of a Test
For4th ings scoreAgTargetResultVenueYear
Eng654/5SA695DrawnDurban1938/39
NZ451Eng550LostChristchurch2001/02
Ind445Aus492LostAdelaide197778
NZ440Eng478LostNottingham1973
Ind429/8Eng437DrawnThe Oval1979
SA423/7Eng450DrawnThe Oval1947
Eng417Aus462LostMelbourne1976/77
Eng411Aus604LostSydney1924/25
WI408/5Eng835DrawnKingston1929/30
Ind406/4WI402WONPort of Spain1975/76
Aus404/3Eng403WONLeeds1948
Aus402Eng505LostManchester1981

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