Neil Wagner (via Sky Sports video)
Asking someone to bowl with the old ball is not the same as picking someone who has built their career around bowling with the old ball.
Asking someone to bowl short is not the same as picking someone who has built their entire career around bowling short.
Being tall does not guarantee bounce.
These are the kinds of things we’ve written about somewhat more coherently for Wisden.com.
Pakistan had already lost six wickets in the final session of the match when Kane Williamson brought forth The Great Neil Wagner. Three ducks later, the series was over.
This isn’t going to help Wagner’s reputation one bit. How the hell are you supposed to run in all day when you keep bringing the opposition’s innings to a close.
Maybe that’s why our man waited until right at the death before joining his team-mates in the rampant wicket-taking. He wanted every opportunity to run in for the majority of the day, but with no play tomorrow, he also knew he had a responsibility to deliver a Test win.
Neil Wagner: he maximises his opportunities for in-running, but without compromising New Zealand’s chances of victory.
First to Kandy, where the five minutes when it was both dry and bright enough to play cricket saw Sri Lanka set Australia 268 to win.
David Warner’s recently-discovered inability to make runs outside Australia persisted as he was bowled for one, and the tourists also lost Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja before Steve Smith whinged about how dark it was and they went off.
Burns was dismissed by what must surely qualify as ‘a ripper‘ from Lakshan Sandakan whose debut brings not just smashing wrist spin but also a great many initials. Paththamperuma Arachchige Don Lakshan Rangika Sandakan matches even Chaminda Vaas for number of names, but alas he must bow to the eternal master when it comes to syllables. Don’t mess with the big boys.
Speaking of which…
Marlon Samuels has been saying things. It’s always worth listening to Marlon, because he’s hilarious.
The West Indies lost the first Test against India by an innings and Marlon refuses to say that it’s because they have a young team.
“For me to say that is like finding excuses for the team. It’s a Test team, and Test cricket is big-man cricket, and the players should know that by now.”
Neil Wagner took six wickets
New Zealand are currently 235-2 against Zimbabwe which we take as proof that it is not just difficult to take wickets on this pitch, but near-enough impossible.
Laughing uproariously in the face of near-enough impossibility, The Great Neil Wagner took 6-41. Four of his wickets came off moderate-paced short balls.
Neil Wagner is the most effective moderate-paced short-pitched bowler in the world. This also makes him the most miraculous bowler in the world.
You need a miracle – you call for Neil Wagner.
Buoyed by a first innings display in which he took six for a million, Neil Wagner persisted with his innovative attritional shock tactics in the second. He took 1-60.
It’s worth noting that Wagner produced this display despite a broken hand. More accurately, he produced this display despite a broken bowling hand.
To the new top-ranked Test side, Australia. It was a hugely impressive performance from them in New Zealand. The only reason we didn’t write about it was because we didn’t want to because we were supporting New Zealand.
We’ve just noticed that we started an article about Brendon McCullum at some point recently and it’s saved as a draft. Rather than writing anything about him here and now, we’ll investigate what we’ve already written and maybe try and get something up tomorrow (if we get time).
Odds are the draft article’s just a heading and nothing beyond that, but we live in hope.
Some classic Pakistan retirement talk from Shahid Afridi this week. Our man’s previously said that he’s retiring after the World T20, but now he’s admitting to being under pressure from friends and family to stick around a while longer.
His reasoning’s magnificent.
“I am saying there is a lot of pressure on me that I shouldn’t retire from T20; that I can play on – and as there is no real talent coming through in Pakistan whose place I am taking?”
There aren’t many media outlets where this would be headline news. It is here though. New Zealand’s fourth seamer isn’t flawless. Stop the press!
It may only have been the day before yesterday, but it already seems a long, long time since we suggested that Neil Wagner never lets you down. The ‘never’ was always an exaggeration; rhetoric, if you will. Now it’s hollow, empty rhetoric that doesn’t really seem to make much sense. The Wagnermeister, as no-one calls him, took 0-49 off seven overs on the first day of the second Test against Sri Lanka. That, ladies and gentlemen, is gash.
So not content with merely failing to back up our claims, it seems Wagner went out of his way to actively disprove them. He didn’t even manage to run in all day. Brendon McCullum didn’t let him, what with all the runs he was conceding.
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.