Astle~~s cameo comes in for praise from both quarters

Published: Wednesday, January 1, 2003, 22:16 [IST]
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Christchurch: New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming praised opener Nathan Astle for playing a key innings in the third One-day International against India on Wednesday.

Astle smashed a 30-ball 32, including 22 runs in one over off fast bowler Javagal Srinath, as New Zealand crushed India by five wickets in a low-scoring day-night match at the Jade Stadium. The hosts scored 109 for 5 in reply to their opponents' 108 to gain a 3-0 lead in the seven-match series. Astle was the game's top-scorer. "An over like that can turn the game," said Fleming. "He (Astle) mentioned over lunch that he was going to have a crack. I quite liked it when he said that. That's what he did. In the context of the game, it was probably frustrating for the Indians." The New Zealand opener cracked five boundaries in that over, including four in a row. India captain Saurav Ganguly echoed the same sentiments, saying that Astle's quick- fire knock turned the game in New Zealand's favour. "I think the approach he (Astle) adopted was the best way to play on these wickets," said Ganguly. "If you stand there defending two or three good deliveries in each over, you might snick one. He took his chances and scored a brisk 32, which turned the game in their favour." Ganguly declined to comment on the pitch that had bounce and helped seam movement, making batting difficult. "Everyone has watched the match on TV and scores are proof enough," he said. "I have said whatever I had to say before in Auckland, so I don't have to comment on pitches each time." Ganguly criticised the track at Auckland after India was bundled out for its lowest- ever total of 108 against New Zealand in the opening game last week. India equalled that total here. Fleming conceded the pitch was not easy to bat on. "It (the pitch) did seam," said Fleming. "I was surprised. I have played a lot of cricket at this stadium, but this one certainly did a lot more than I can remember. It didn't expect it to provide that much assistance to bowlers. "What we have at the moment is challenging conditions for batsmen, but we are coping a little bit better than the Indians." The Indian captain admitted his team had been struggling for runs on the current tour. "It has been a struggle for us," said Ganguly. "We have not been able to put runs on the board. We have worked hard in the nets, but in the middle, it's the same old story. "When we came to New Zealand, all our batters were in very good form. We had scored tons of runs, but that has changed completely. We have not really got the momentum going."

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