16th March, 2002 – This date is still very much vivid in the many fans' memories including me who was not even 9 year old back then. What do you think actually defines or is the parameter to recalls the memory of a great batsman who had been the player ahead of its time with his smart cricketing brain or the kind of cricket he had played is something a cricketer would not learn around experts rather that’s something is inborn trait or skill of a cricketer.
Let's go back into the history of cricket to think about the cricketer whose impact was much higher than his records or the runs he had scored in his cricketing career for his team. There are many names like Martin Crowe, Andy Flower or someone like Brendon Taylor whose impact had been phenomenal but one player whose impact had been completely surreal and still talked about is none other than the former great batting powerhouse of New Zealand team Nathan Astle.
Now before we get into this memorable knock which is still the record under the name of Nathan Astle. We have to understand how difficult this knock was and under what circumstances it had been played it definitely needs the guts from the player. We have witnessed players have been scoring double hundreds in test cricket around various tracks in the world but under the seam and swing conditions against the quality pace attack it is not that easy to play with free swing to bat unless the player has some luck with him.
New Zealand has been the underdog team in the long cricket history without any doubt. But around every decade New Zealand has been filled up with the quality batsman, all-rounder or bowlers who believed in their own way of cricket playing abilities. Nathan Astle is the another name into the list of underrated cricketer whose impact was overshadowed by the kind of team he was part of in his cricketing career.
England tour of New Zealand 2002 for 2-match test series led by Stephen Fleming and Nassier Hussain respectively. New Zealand and England have locked horns for the first test match at Christchurch. Earlier New Zealand had won the ODI series by 3-2 while in the tour matches England only managed to won one match against the county teams.
In the first test match the hosts won the toss and invited the visitors to bat first before England was all out at the score of 228 in the first innings with only century from captain Nassier Hussain 106. In reply New Zealand got out at the score of 147 runs in just 51.2 overs with leading score of Daniel Vettori 42 in the first innings. Mathew Hoggard from England was the source of destruction for New Zealand batting collapse who took 7 wickets for 63 runs.
But England declared their second innings at 468 runs for the loss of 6 wickets with the brilliant double hundred of Graham Thorpe who remained unbeaten on 200*. The target for hosts were 550 with six more sessions to go in the test match and they were again in the mess with three down at 119/3, then walked in Nathan Astle to provide the valuable resistance to collapse of the line-up.
New Zealand Chase was derailed by Andrew Caddick
With Astle playing his attacking cricket from one end, the other end was in no mood to provide any help to the batsman as Andrew Caddick destroyed the team boost to think about the chase. The hosts were at the receiving end from 189/3 to 333/9. Astle reached his hundred in 114 balls and it looked now it's a matter of a few more overs for England to clinch the victory.
But Astle had other thoughts in his mind to spend some more time on the crease with the last batsman of New Zealand. As took the charge to hammer the most destructive knock in the fourth innings of chase. Where the first hundred came in 114 balls, Astle took the next 39 balls to smash the fastest double hundred in test cricket history ever. The match which was almost over now looked to have had any outcome with the kind of hitting Astle was doing but unlucky he was out at the score of 222 runs on the Mathew Hoggard delivery. The match could've been the greatest of all-time if Target was chased down by Nathan Astle but his intent was to play cricket as long as he could to entertain the crowd in the ground. But this innings had set the benchmark for the players that even the chase the fourth innings is possible if the intent is there from the batsman.
Watch the innings here
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