A wave of child-like glee sweeps over. Years and months have been spent toiling hard, under the watchful eyes of the stern father whose ultimate motive is to witness his son achieve the feats that he himself has been unable to scale. With gleaming eyes and a hopeful heart, the duo set forth on a journey that can either bear fruit or end in despair. Days might roll on, with the faint scent of success still eluding them. But the determined soul refuses to give up. The effort is doubled; the willpower trebled and the journey resumed with renewed zeal.
When Todd Duncan Astle finally turned out for the New Zealand cricket team in the first One Day International against West Indies, somewhere Alec Astle heaved a sigh of relief. As Junior Astle returned with the best ODI figures on debut by a Kiwi bowler, Senior Astle silently suppressed a smile. A smile that had been drawn way back in the summer of 2012, when his son was picked to play his maiden Test match against Sri Lanka. The joy, however, was short-lived as a host of injuries and the inability to make a significant mark in that opportunity meant that he played only one more Test match for the national side henceforth, that too four years later.
After suffering a groin injury that unfortunately saw him missing the tour to India, Astle had his moment in the spotlight against West Indies. The turbulent journey had been forgotten; so had the fact that the debut might have taken time coming and all that remained on the 30-year old’s mind was to dish in with a performance that would allow the selectors to include him in the radar for future tournaments.
In the Cobham Oval in Whangarei, he did just that. Coming into bowl after the Windies had lost Chris Gayle and Shai Hope, Astle began his ODI career with a barrage of googlies and accurate sliders that continued to bamboozle the rivals. His first four overs cost just 18 runs, with Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer failing to get going from the spinning web that they had found themselves in.
The googly that accounted for Hetmyer was holed out to long-off from the external half of his bat. In a bid to launch down the ground, the West Indian was beaten by the wrong ‘un, eventually faltering to the deception, to be caught by Lockie Ferguson.
The most riveting contest in the one-sided game was between Lewis and the bowler. The former looked the only batsman in the line-up, who looked at ease against Astle. The drives through point were on full display and the spin was effectively countered and defended. However, it was the leggie who ended up triumphant, picking up Lewis with a googly that tossed around the middle stump. The batsman was unable to figure out the length of the delivery, intending to sweep a fuller length ball and was ultimately caught plumb in front of the wicket.
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) December 20, 2017
By the time he picked up his third wicket, that of Ashley Nurse, he had already succeeded in taking away the limelight from veterans Tim Southee, Trent Boult and even Man-of-the-Match Doug Bracewell. The one to Nurse displayed hints of shrewdness as it drifted in towards the middle stump to skid off the deck. The batsman played for the turn but with none available, he too was caught up in the mastery of the bowler.
With no further runs conceded in the particular over, the debutant finished with figures of 3/33 in his full quota of overs without giving away a single boundary! It was not only the best ODI figures for a spinner for the Black Caps, it was also the seventh best haul taken by a tweaker in the history of the format.
Todd Astle has the best figures by a spinner on ODI debut for NZ.
Currently 7th best overall for NZ. #NZvWI
— Michael Wagener (@Mykuhl) December 20, 2017
However, what stood out from Astle’s stint in the middle was his vast reliance on the googlies; which was spun from the off-stump towards the leg with a sharp bend in the wrist of the bowler. 38.3% of his deliveries were googlies, which is in sharp contrast to the global average of 7.5% in a game.
Termed an “exciting” prospect by former Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur in 2016, Astle today gave adequate hints of his ability to fox the rivals. If he can recreate his form consistently, his career can carve a new direction, something which he and his father had long hoped for.