He’s like an old pair of walking socks, a sturdy side table or a functioning fridge. He doesn’t set your world alight, but at least your feet are warm, your brew is well supported and your veg hasn’t gone off.
Last week, against Sri Lanka, Neil Wagner took 3-87 and 2-56. This is pretty much the archetypal Wagnerian performance: plenty of legwork, a handful of wickets, but nothing too headline grabbing. At one point he was clocked at 160km/h but it turned out to be interference from a seagull. No, really.
We once gave Neil Wagner an award for his commitment to bustling fast-medium bowling in the face of being stereotyped as a bustling fast-medium bowler. He’d run through a wall for you would Neil. He just keeps on running in.
Sometimes, in his boisterousness, he bowls himself off his feet and onto the floor, seemingly unaware that in doing so he’s flirting with self parody. Good on him. Who cares if people think you’re Angus Fraser with a surfeit of enthusiasm. Being Angus Fraser with a surfeit of enthusiasm is a good thing.
He’s not in the first XI, but Wagner never really seems to let New Zealand down. He comes in when someone’s injured and he does a job. It’s not necessarily an eye-catching job, but it’s a job. It’s putting petrol in the car. It’s taking the recycling out. It’s scouring that oven tray with all the burnt-on crud. You may only have middling expectations, but Neil Wagner reliably meets them.