Astle thrives on home turf

Nathan Astle again prospered on home soil with an unbeaten 118 as the BLACKCAPS set the West Indies a target of 276 for six at Christchurch's Jade Stadium to save The National Bank Series.

The hosts will defend a healthy total as they seek to create an unbeatable advantage in the five-match One-Day International campaign.

And they can thank Astle’s second consecutive top-scoring innings in his home town – following his unbeaten 90 against Sri Lanka – for his vital contribution.

The veteran’s 16th ODI century was a fine display of batting, which saw him act primarily as an anchor to the top order before driving forward in the latter stages.

He moved into triple figures in the final over of the innings, and finished it in fine style with three successive sixes and 20 from Chris Gayle’s final six to bolster the team’s total.

Captain Stephen Fleming, on his 250th ODI appearance for the BLACKCAPS, won the toss once more in his native city and elected to bat first on the batter-friendly Jade Stadium wicket.

He topped the order with Lou Vincent and the pair set off at an express pace, hitting at a rate of six runs-per-over from their opening five sets of six.

Vincent in particular was relying on his big-hitting style, scoring three sixes off Ian Bradshaw on his way to 25 from 22 balls.

However, the risks of his approach were shown when Bradshaw gained revenge as Vincent forced a shot straight to Shivnarine Chanderpaul at mid-off.

Astle replaced Vincent and although the rate subsided slightly, the BLACKCAPS still made their first 50 off 62 balls.

On 61 for one, though, Bradshaw accounted for both openers after Fleming lofted a huge shot on his leg side, which stayed in the air for a number of seconds.

The fielders had some time to organise, but Chanderpaul and Runako Morton got in a tangle at mid-off and it was only a hopeful stretch of the arm by Morton – more under pressure from his captain than the ball – to take the catch.

Bradshaw then scored his third scalp when he enticed Scott Styris into a poor shot, which clipped to Denesh Ramdin for one and a promising start from the BLACKCAPS faltered.

Dwayne Smith came on and in his first over, the 21st, Chris Gayle caught Peter Fulton (21) at slip to reduce the hosts to 87 for four.

Hamish Marshall joined Astle and pushed the score on with a record fifth-wicket partnership against the West Indies of 99.

The stand provided the backbone of the BLACKCAPS’ innings and helped them stabilise after a turbulent few overs.

Marshall made 43, off 54 deliveries, before falling to Chris Gayle, caught by Daren Ganga.

Brendon McCullum survived a no-ball from Fidel Edwards but was run out after the next delivery, on 13, caught out of his crease by counterpart Ramdin after turning back from a quick single.

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’s grand finale which could yet prove to be match-winning – and series-deciding.

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