Astle blazes fastest double ton but England win
New Zealander Nathan Astle played an hero's innings in a losing cause on Saturday with the fastest double century on record during the fourth day of the first Test against England.
Astle blazed his way to 200 in just 153 balls, an extraordinary 59 balls fewer than Australian Adam Gilchrist took against South Africa in Johannesburg on February 23.
He was finally out for 222 with 28 fours and 11 sixes , including three in a row off Andrew Caddick, as New Zealand, set 550 to win, eventually succumbed for 451 to give England victory by 98 runs.
Astle's counter-attack inspired the lame Chris Cairns to come to the crease at number 11 with the total 333 for nine.
Batting with a runner Cairns, who will not play against in the three-match series after injuring his right knee, played a full part with three fours and a six in his unbeaten 23.
England looked at a loss as the pair flayed the ball to all parts of the Jade Stadium but the New Zealanders' defiance had come too late after they were convincingly outplayed during the first three days.
Astle accepted his full share of the responsibility after dropping Graham Thorpe second ball on Friday. Man-of-the-match Thorpe went on to make 200 not out from 231 balls.
"I can't really explain it, it was just one of those days," Astle said. "Everything seemed to find the boundary so you have got to enjoy it when you can.
"But we did lose the Test match. I was bit frustrated I suppose at dropping Thorpe on four, that was probably one of hte big turning points of the game. I had to try and go and make up for that."
Caddick was the pick of the England bowlers, taking six for 122 but the other bowlers suffered in full from the Astle onslaught.
Matthew Hoggard, who took seven for 63 in the first innings, conceded 142 runs from 24.3 overs before finally capturing the wicket of Astle. Andy Flintoff went for 94 runs off 16 overs and Ashley Giles for 73 from 28.
Caddick captured three early wickets, including opener Mark Richardson for 76, as New Zealand reached 140 for three at lunch after resuming at 28 for no wicket.
The Richardson wicket appeared to contain an element of luck. Replays showed the batsman was hit on the arm as he attempted to get out of the way of a short delivery and the ball flew to wicketkeeper James Foster.
Matthew Horne was Caddick's first victim, playing just outside off stump and edging to Foster for four and Lou Vincent lasted only three balls before he snicked Caddick to Mark Butcher in the slips.
When captain Stephen Fleming fell for 48 the match seemed all but over but Astle, who dropped England's double century maker Graham Thorpe off the second ball on Thursday, had other ideas.
"It was the cleanest (hitting) I have ever seen," said Fleming. "He's a magnificent player and you saw him at his absolute best today."
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