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Astle guides New Zealand to victory

A superb inning of 90 by Nathan Astle helped the Kiwis to a winning lead in the ODI series.

india Updated: Jan 03, 2006 14:20 IST

Super-sub Nathan Astle found form in a crisis on Tuesday, scoring an unbeaten 90 to lead New Zealand to a five-wicket win over Sri Lanka and to a winning3-0lead in their five-match limited-overs cricket series.

Astle was dropped from the New Zealand team prior to the series after an extended run of poor form. But he was recalled when captain Stephen Fleming pulled out of matches on Saturday andTuesdy to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.

The veteran right-hander made little of his reprieve in the second match of the series, contributing only two runs to New Zealand's seven-wicket win, but was their anchoron Tuesdayas they sewed up a series that began more than a year ago.

The first match was played on December 26, 2004, the day an earthquake-generated tsunami struck Sri Lanka, devastating coastal towns and villages and leaving an estimated 40,000 people dead.

The Sri Lankan team, some of whom lost friends and relatives in the disaster, returned home to comfort families and to help their ravaged nation rebuild.
They returned to New Zealand last week to play out the last four matches before crossing the Tasman Sea for a scheduled tri-series with Australia and South Africa.

Sri Lanka's batsmen showed more mettle today than they had in reaching only 164 in the second match at Queenstown. Talented opener Upul Tharanga made 103, his second century in limited-overs internationals, to lead the tourists to 255-7 batting first after losing the toss.

New Zealand relied heavily on Astle to surpass that score, reaching 256-5 from the last ball of the 48th over as rain, which had previously interrupted the innings, began to set in.

Openers Lou Vincent (46) and Jamie How (12) gave New Zealand's run chase a strong start, sharing a partnership of 59 in only 8.2 overs but after their dismissals, the innings lost some of its direction.

Peter Fulton, whose unbeaten 70 won the match at Queenstown, dallied for 53 balls over his 32 runs, Hamish Marshall fell for 12 and Scott Styris made 28 as Sri Lanka effectively curbed New Zealand's scoring.

Muttiah Muralitharan bowled 10 overs for 40 runs, dismissing Marshall, and Tillakaratne Dilshan sent down 10 overs for 38, removing Fulton to delay the result until the dying overs.

Astle struggled at times to find his footwork and timing but he persevered and, when the run rate began to rise, found the boundary regularly enough to keep New Zealand on top. He hit seven fours and one six in a dogged innings.

Chris Cairns had earlier claimed Dilshan's wicket during Sri Lanka's innings to become only the second New Zealander after Chris Harris (203) to take 200 wickets in one-day internationals.

Tharaga opened and provided Sri Lanka's early anchor, batting until the 38th over and providing 103 of his team's first 169 runs.

Catain Marvan Ataputta was run out on the second-to-last ball of the innings for 52, having reached his half-century from only 44 balls at a strike-rate of 114.

First Published: Jan 03, 2006 10:13 IST