Astle steals the show

Nathan Astle’s world-class performance earned the BLACKCAPS a 21–run victory over the West Indies at Jade Stadium to complete a National Bank One-Day International Series triumph.

The BLACKCAPS took an unbeatable 3-0 win in the five-match campaign on the back of a fine performance by their veteran on his favourite stage.

The State Canterbury Wizard had already hit 90 on the same park to defeat Sri Lanka this season and it was also the scene of his Test double-hundred against England.

But a perfectly-paced unbeaten 118 – his 16th ODI century - began meticulously before a grand finale of three sixes off the last three balls of the innings to earn 276 for six.

And for an encore, he broke the Windies resistance with a superb boundary catch to remove Devon Smith off Jeetan Patel.

The hometown hero stole the limelight, but he was ably assisted by a talented supporting cast.

Patel’s emergence as another top-notch spinner continued with three wickets, backed by Shane Bond and Daniel Vettori and diligent innings from Hamish Marshall and James Franklin dovetailed with Astle, the star attraction.

Stephen Fleming, another Garden City native, won the toss on his 250th ODI appearance for the BLACKCAPS. He elected to bat first and entered the fray alongside Lou Vincent.

They set off at an express pace, Vincent in particular hitting out and notching three sixes off Ian Bradshaw on his way to 25. But the Bajan extracted revenge with Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s catch at mid-off.

On 61 for one, Bradshaw removed the other opener when Fleming’s lofted shot was eventually claimed by Runako Morton, just ahead of the charging Chanderpaul.

From there, the middle order struggled, with Scott Styris (1) and Peter Fulton (21) unable to make inroads. But Hamish Marshall joined Astle in the middle and restored some order with a good knock of 43.

The pair’s fifth-wicket partnership of 99 was a record against the West Indies and provided the backbone of the BLACKCAPS’ innings and helped them stabilise after a turbulent few overs, before Marshall fell to Gayle, caught by Daren Ganga.

Brendon McCullum survived a no-ball from Fidel Edwards but was run out after the next delivery, on 13, run out by counterpart Ramdin. However, James Franklin, whose supporting role in Queenstown earlier in the week proved crucial, came to the crease and again made a contribution of 17 from 17 balls.

But it was Astle, with the innings which built to a magnificent crescendo, who took centre stage.

Fine starts by the BLACKCAPS pace attack have contributed to their success this term, and with just his second ball, Bond yorked Ganga for one.

Gayle made his first significant innings of the tour, with 38. The last 16 of those runs came off Michael Mason, in the ninth over, but after two consecutive sixes, the bowler settled the scores when Vettori caught at mid-on.

Morton threatened and made 58 as the West Indies upped the pace and passed the 100-mark at less than a run a ball. However, on 58, a tricky Vettori delivery in the 21st over was mis-hit and gratefully received by Franklin. And three balls later, Ramdin was removed as he was trapped attempting to sweep the left-armer, but was foxed as a straighter ball hit the pad of his trailing leg.

Captain Chanderpaul came in and made four, but his opposite number Fleming astutely returned Bond to the attack, who trapped him lbw. Wavell Hinds carried the fight to the BLACKCAPS in Queenstown, but he also put four on the board before charging Patel, only to be deceived by the flight and stumped by McCullum.

Then, Patel must have given up a delivery for six off Smith. But Astle did not, and plucked the ball out of the air and landed perfectly to complete one of the plays of the summer.

Patel claimed his third wicket when McCullum removed Rawl Lewis for 10.

Ramnaresh Sarwan had played an intelligent innings for a half-century, keeping his side’s chances of a series-saving triumph alive.

And Bradshaw, an experienced finisher, hit a pair of sixes off Vettori’s final over as the pair put on a dangerous 77-run rearguard action.

But Mason again earned retribution for Bradshaw’s boundaries when Vincent’s catch dismissed the left-hander for 37.

Vincent repeated the trick to dismiss Sarwan for 65 off Bond, to ensure Astle’s top billing and guarantee the BLACKCAPS’ second National Bank ODI Series victory of the summer.

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