Neil Wagner never lets you down

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< 1 minute read

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.

Neil Wagner.


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  1. He should be in the first XI. The fact that he hasn’t been has been one of my enduring frustrations with the New Zealand side of late. They’ve been going with Doug Bracewell and/or Matt Henry, because in first-class cricket, they take a lot of wickets. But then in the Test side, they go from being the strike bowler to the third seamer, and neither is quite equipped for that role, whereas Wagner seems like he was born to be the third seamer who runs up the slope and bowls into the wind for eight overs at a time.

    1. That seems to be something of a theme in international cricket at the minute – picking strike bowlers versus putting together a complementary attack. Peter Siddle’s been struggling to retain a place for similar reasons.

  2. If you think he’s just another fast medium, you are gravely mistaken. There are hidden depths to his bowling you know? Wagner’s sporting life is characterized by political exile, turbulent love affairs, poverty and repeated flight from his coaches. His controversial writings on swing, seam, and pitches have attracted extensive comment in recent years, especially where they express antisemitic sentiments. The effect of his ideas can be traced in many of the Kiwi bowlers throughout the noughties; their influence spread beyond bowling into debauchery, vandalism, the visual arts and theatre.

  3. Some examples of Neil Wagner letting people down with wicketless or one-wicket high-economy spells at important times

    Cricket’s not a game where everyone has equal skill points and you have to divide them into ‘impressiveness’ and ‘reliability’. Some people are better at it than others. Wagner is just okay.

    1. Never Bring Facts to an internet discussion, it’s like bringing your nan’s rolling pins to a mace fight.

    2. Pondering an attention-grabbing, assumption-busting headline: “Neil Wagner isn’t perfect.”

  4. Nothing keeps my feet warm like an old pair of walking socks – except, maybe, a new pair of walking socks.

    Neil Wagner.

  5. In other news, looks like England’s tour match has just been cut by the thunder.

    Sadly, the Thunder (with a capital “T”) have just won a match, so that expression no longer works as well.

      1. Excellent. Your knowledge of Thunder-cutting is presumably also a tribute to how much we repeat ourself.

  6. He’s a good guy. Reminds me a bit of Iain O’Brien a bit, in the max-effort aspect. I however think Matt Henry and Dag Bracewell are also good or potentially good bowlers. No McClenaghan though please.

      1. I think McClenaghan’s anger issues stem from his extreme crossfit/paleo beliefs; probably just really desperate for a piece of toast and morning on the couch.

  7. Neil Wagner: the beautiful figures of 7-0-49-0 on a truncated first day at Seddon Park – KC calls it yet again!

    Mind you, that greenest of green tops might not have been that helpful to our earnest trundler.

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