Neil Wagner’s bouncer can be described as a mean fireball heading towards the throat, a delivery that makes him New Zealand’s best after Trent Boult and Tim Southee.
The heat found in the Indian cuisine is predominantly of two kinds. Cumin, pepper and all the other spices constitute the first category and are of great razzmatazz. But it’s the second type that is off-putting. The heat from green chilies, ginger, and garlic is what forces you to make that grunting sound, when you exhale, to get rid of that burning sensation.
If bowling bouncers are equivalent to producing heat while bowling, the ones that are skiddy in nature, creates the most discomfort. Neil Wagner started as a new ball bowler, then added reverse swing to his rapporteur and now has been bowling the meanest kind of bouncers that there is, in the circuit.
Trent Boult joined Pat Cummins and Jasprit Bumrah to become the third bowler this week to take nine wickets in a match. As New Zealand achieved their biggest victory with an innings involved, a colossal 421 run win over Sri Lanka, Wagner played his part. With four wickets in the second innings, Wagner killed any hopes of a Lankan fightback.
On the fourth day, after battling for 228 balls for his 56, Dinesh Chandimal faced a short ball from Wagner. Chandimal’s first reaction was to duck but to his horror, Wagner doesn’t allow to you duck, usually. He bowls a length which is short enough to push you back and produces not enough bounce to duck underneath it. A fireball heading towards your throat, it is mean and unsettling. Chandimal gloved it and Henry Nicholls pouched it at short leg. On the final day, he got rid of Dilruwan Perera caught off another short ball.
Here are the numbers that warrant your attention but probably do not;
Wagner’s quick-arm action makes it slightly more difficult to face. But it is his ability to run in all day while bending his back consistently that makes him a special commodity.
Since his debut in July 2012 in test cricket, he has a slightly better strike rate than Trent Boult and Tim Southee and New Zealand’s their third highest wicket-taker in that period.
57.3% of all his wicket is ‘caught’ and that is a number that reflects the length Wagner prefers to bowl.
Pretoria born Wagner had produced the best of his short ball ordeal against West Indies at Wellington in 2017 when he finished with seven for 39 in an innings and six of those wickets had come from bowling short at the batsman.
Not enough wickets next to his name on barren UAE pitches raised a few eyebrows about his selection in the side. He then produced 2 for 175 in the first test at Wellington and thus the stage was set for a typical Wagner show at Christchurch and so it happened.
Matt Henry accumulating 74 scalps for Kent of just 10 first-class matches does put a bit of pressure on Neil Wagner.
But if he continues to deliver such thunderbolts then he has nothing to worry about.
Next up at the New Zealand shores will be Bangladesh, in February and rest assured even they will feel this heat.