A Test win that too away from home is always special but unfortunately for England, this Test played in Christchurch in March 2002, will be remembered more for Nathan Astle’s heroics.

Chasing a massive 550, the New Zealander gave a scare to the visiting Englishmen. Astle batted like a man possessed and demolished the England attack.

England batted first and posted 228 and managed to bowl out New Zealand for only 147. In the second innings for England, Graham Thorpe and Andrew Flintoff added 281 runs for the sixth wicket. Thorpe was unbeaten on 200 off just 231 balls, while Flintoff scored 137 off 163. England declared at 468, setting a target of 550 for the hosts.

New Zealand started cautiously, but England pacer Andy Caddick created wrecks at the top. Astle came into bat at 119 for three. He batted fluently to bring up his hundred off only 114 balls. What followed since was some unbelievable hitting. The line, length, or the bowlers’ reputation, nothing mattered to him at all. He kept charging at everything and if the ball was short and wide, it would fly off his slash and if it was short – targeted towards his body, he would pull it without hesitating.

Wickets kept falling at the other end, but Astle continued the onslaught. From 148, he drove a Caddick ball, through the covers to bring up his 150. His score read – 152 off 136 balls. Astle then meted out a special treatment for the English fast bowler. The next six balls, he faced from Caddick went for – 6, 6, 4, 6, 6, 6! Had they all been in one over, it would have been the most expensive over in Test cricket.

What helped Astle’s case was that the last man for New Zealand was all-rounder Chris Cairns, who was batting at that position due to an injury. From 199, Astle swept left-arm spinner Ashley Giles for a single to notch up the fastest ever double hundred in Test cricket’s history. It had just taken him 153 balls, and what was incredible was the fact that his second hundred took him only 39 balls! A reminder here – this was before the Twenty20 era.

Astle continued to delight even after his double hundred. The Nasser Hussain led England unit looked tensed and many in the New Zealand camp began to feel that they could do the unthinkable. But that didn’t happen. Batting at 222, Astle edged a Hoggard ball to the gloves of wicket-keeper James Foster.

Astle’s 222 came off 168 balls, and it contained 28 fours and 11 sixes. It remains the fastest double hundred in terms of balls faced. A few weeks back, in the month of February, against South Africa at Johannesburg, Australian wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist had smashed a double hundred off 212 balls; Astle’s carnage ensured that Gilchrist’s record was short-lived.

New Zealand’s total of 451, remains the highest fourth innings total in a defeat and Astle’s 222 is the second highest score in the fourth innings of a Test —one run behind George Headley’s 223, which too was against England, but in 1930.