- Sanjay Sanapoori | March 2, 2023 | 7:41 pm
A couple days ago the Cricketing World experienced what will be remembered as one of the greatest Tests of all time. A follow-on victory, and a win by one run. New Zealand literally stole victory by the barest of margins. The Test had it all. England hammered New Zealand with the bat as Harry Brook continued to take a liking to Neil Wagner. The battle between England and Wagner started to bring attention to his future in the side. At 36, Neil Wagner has reached that stage of his career where his performances get scrutinized more than needed.
Wagner though continues to prove that he is a freak of nature. At 36, he continues to bowl long marathon spells and keeps bowling bouncer after bouncer. The bouncer is known to be the toughest and most demanding ball to bowl and takes a lot out of the body. Brett Lee himself once mentioned that a bouncer takes twice the effort. Neil Wagner though has made a career only on bowling bouncers. With New Zealand tracks tending to lose life on the last few days, Wagner has made it a habit of extracting bounce and consistently targeting batters on their chest, making it really difficult to take him on.
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In his last three innings though, England seems to have found a way to counter him. Harry Brook, despite Neil Wagner laying in the foundation for his leg-side short ball trap, continued to take him on. He was positive, aggressive and ruthless. Harry Brook’s adventure resulted in Neil Wagner conceding runs at a really high rate, which is often not seen from him. Brook did not let him get into rhythm at all.
The first innings in Wellington was an absolute hammering. Wagner took 1/119 and struggled in the head to head against Brook and Root. In the second innings though, Neil Wagner, who loves bowling in the back end of a Test Match proved that he still has a lot of fight in him. He came into bowl when Ben Stokes and Joe Root were coasting to the target. The Test was slipping away. Neil Wagner though, few days shy of 37 was at work. He backed his bouncer theory and quickly saw the back of Ben Stokes, who took on the short-ball.
The situation was tailor made for Stokes. He had Root at the other side and was set. He has a habit of pulling out miracles and was intent on taking England to their first series win in New Zealand since 2008. It wasn’t meant to be for him though. The very next over, with the responsibility on Root, Wagner continued to stick to his strength. He kept it short and like he has on numerous occasions in his career, he had Joe Root miscuing to the fielder. Two overs, two wickets, and the Test turned. Stuart Broad came out with Ben Foakes. The pair played some adventurous cricket to get England ever so close.
Foakes managed to flat bat Wagner over his head as well, and in the end it was down to Jake Leach and James Anderson. Neil Wagner, into his tenth over of the spell was given a massive workout. He had two to play with, and his short ball theory always has the risk of conceding wide runs and runs with batters nailing their hook shots. Neither happened though. There was a short-ball down the leg-side which could have been called a wide on the penultimate ball of the Test. It wasn’t though. Instead, a ball later, James Anderson, who could have possibly hit the winning runs for the first time in his 179 Test career tickled the ball down leg to the keeper.
Seconds later, Neil Wagner was off on a run with the nerves in his temple bursting as they do normally. He proved once again that his mental toughness, doggy attitude and ability to create a dogfight trumps talent. From 201-5 he alone turned the Test around and helped create a famous victory for Test Cricket. One of the toughest characters, Neil Wagner, has proven once again that he has a place in the Test Cricketing World with his relentless 130 Kmph Short Deliveries.