Ahmedabad: Motera has always been kind to Nathan Astle. Back in 1996, he got a century against England in the World Cup opener. Friday, Astle showed he has not lost any of his flamboyance and athleticism despite the knee surgery that kept him out for several months. His 103 left New Zealand needing only 19 more runs to avoid the follow-on with two wickets in hand.
“It’s always nice to come back to a ground with good memories. It becomes easier to go out there and bat, your mind is at ease a lot more,” he said after the day’s play.
Astle felt it had become more of a mental game for them now. Up against a total of 500 always keeps the opposition under pressure and they are trying to overcome it. With the wicket showing wear and tear and the hot conditions, the fourth day could be critical. “If we are made to follow on it will be tough to last the two days,” he felt.
“It’s a good wicket, although the heat is getting to us a little bit. It has become a mental game more than anything else. The wicket will turn more as the game goes on. Zaheer Khan’s footmarks are also creating a rough for the Indian spinners, so if we do have to follow-on, that will help them quite a bit.”
He appeared satisfied with his innings. “I was going to play my natural game and I think I did that pretty well. I got out to a reckless shot. I wanted to be more assertive, and just picked the wrong ball to do it. Craig McMillan took the pressure off me and played well, and we were able to keep the runs ticking along.”
On reaching his first hundred against India, he also became the first New Zealander since 1976-77 to score a Test century in India. “Actually I was aware of that. Before play started, we had a few facts put before us, and this was one of them. So it was actually good motivation,” he felt.
Their first target was to avoid the follow-on now. “We’re going to try to get that 19 more runs, and then maybe get a few more past it. If we do that, we’ll be a lot happier. We’ll have a shot at drawing this game.”