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I just aimed to play my natural game: Astle

Last updated on: October 11, 2003 03:09 IST

Nathan Astle scored New Zealand's first Test century against India since 1989-90 (when wicket-keeper Ian Smith had hit 173 at Eden Park, Auckland) as the visitors ended Day 3 of the first Test at Ahmedabad 19 runs short of following on.

Obviously, Astle was pleased with his knock.

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"I just aimed to play my natural game. The idea was to get to 301 so that we could make India bat again," he said at the end of the day's play.

"After the first two days the heat was starting to get to us a little bit, so we made sure we were well hydrated today. The fact that we have not got a century against India in Tests is something we were all aware of," he added.

Astle, who scored 103 before being stumped by Parthiv Patel off Harbhajan Singh, was impressed by the Indian spinners. "They bowled very well on a pitch that is not offering a lot of assistance right now," he said. "They know the conditions and how to bowl here."

Asked how it felt to play such a long innings after returning from a knee injury, Astle said, "The knee is holding up fine, but I won't be able to bowl for at least three months."

The Kiwis may not miss Astle's sustained medium pace bowling in the Tests, but they certainly will miss it in the forthcoming limited overs triangular series also involving Australia.

Just 19 runs away from averting the follow on, one would say New Zealand have weathered the storm. But Astle felt otherwise. "We are still not comfortable," he said. "India is still in command. If they make us follow on, it will be very tough."

Astle's impressive 91 run partnership with Craig McMillan almost took New Zealand out of the woods before a good catch by Akash Chopra sent the latter back to the pavilion.

"McMillan played very well," Astle said. "In fact, in our partnership he was more dominant, playing more shots, while I just kept him company. He was unlucky to get out, but it was a good catch. The runs were flowing during that partnership."

Astle felt a draw would be a favourable result for New Zealand given the situation they are in. "But Zaheer Khan, coming from round the wicket, is creating footmarks for the spinners. After a day or two, the spinners will really be able to use them."

Ashish Magotra in Ahmedabad