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Last Updated:  Sunday, 9 March, 2003, 13:02 GMT
Astle rises to the occasion
By Scott Heinrich
BBC Sport

Nathan Astle's match-winning century against Zimbabwe proved yet again he is a man for all occasions.

Nathan Astle
Astle is invariably in the thick of the action when New Zealand win

As well as reaffirming his standing as the side's best batsman, the knock showcased his precious capacity to tailor his game as and when necessary.

Rightly or not, when Astle retires he will be remembered for his 222 against England in 2002, the fastest Test double century in history.

It was an innings that would have done justice to any one-day game, but against Zimbabwe Astle could not have been further removed from his big-hitting best.

The right-hander bats at three because his skipper wants innings built around him, and with Astle remaining unbeaten in Bloemfontein the result was never in doubt.

Set a tricky target of 253, New Zealand lost Craig McMillan very early and were teetering on the brink at 97 for three on a slowing wicket.

But Astle's 102 off 122 balls was exquisitely executed, teasing Zimbabwe yet timing the Kiwis' run to perfection.

Astle rarely cut loose - he left that to the sporadic Chris Cairns, with whom he shared a pivotal 121-run stand for the fourth wicket.

Forty-four of his runs were scored in boundaries, the rest the result of constant strike rotation and excellent running between the wickets.

Nathan Astle is hugged by Chris Harris
Astle guided the Black Caps home with an emotional Chris Harris

Not bad for a man with a poorly knee, which once the tournament is over will be operated on and will sideline Astle for six months.

From a man who can slog with the best of them, his knock betrayed the mind of a tactician who knows how to get the job done.

"I try to stay in every time," Astle said.

"If I stay in or get a hundred we usually win."

He is not wrong on that count.

New Zealand have won on 12 of the 13 occasions he has weighed in with a century, ample proof Astle is their engine room and when he fires they fire.

His stabilising presence will be paramount to The Black Caps' fortunes in this World Cup, and especially when they take on traditional foes Australia on Tuesday.

Astle's record against the Aussies is good, passing 50 every three times he plays against them.

He was an instrumental figure in Australia missing out on qualifying for the VB Series finals on home patch in 2001/02.

The reigning champions will remember well Astle's 95 in Adelaide when they were sunk by 77 runs.

A similar performance in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday could see the seemingly invincible Australians finally given a test.

Links to more New Zealand stories


Derbyshire in Astle blow
13 Feb 03 |  Derbyshire
Astle no problem for Malcolm
22 Mar 02 |  England
Astle stars but England win
16 Mar 02 |  England in NZ 2002

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