New Zealand struggling despite Astle's ton

Published: Thursday, October 16, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Ahmedabad: Nathan Astle withstood the pressure to score a fine unbeaten century as New Zealand progressed to 221 for five at tea in their first innings on the third day of the first cricket Test against India in Ahmedabad on Friday. It was a redeeming comeback century of sorts for Astle who missed New Zealand's last Test series against Sri Lanka due to a knee injury. With 102 runs under his belt, Astle will have to produce a stable partnership with Jacob Oram, who was batting on two when tea break was taken, to take New Zealand past the follow on mark of 300.

The task was never easy for Astle who came in after the fall of three quick wickets on Thursday following India's first innings declaration on 500 for five. But he showed remarkable determination to see off the threat posed especially by the Indian spin duo of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble to score his first ever Test century against India and his ninth overall. He reached the landmark in style with a four off Harbhajan Singh. His 200-ball knock was studded with 14 fours.

Though Astle looked very much in form to help his side add 89 more runs to avoid the follow-on, the only concern for the Kiwis is finding a partner for the record- holding batsman. Craig McMillan, who helped put 91 runs for the fifth wicket with Astle, started with a bang and appeared to pull his team out of the woods but he perished to a delivery by part-time bowler Virender Sehwag on 54 (92b, 8x4). Aakash Chopra took a superb catch at forward short leg to send the in-form batsman back to the pavilion.

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