Bowler hits right note de­spite be­ing off key at times

Weekend Herald - - Cricket - David Leg­gat in Welling­ton

You have to hand it to Neil Wag­ner; what­ever the state of the game, what­ever the tem­per­a­ture, how­ever un­promis­ing the sit­u­a­tion, you can bank on him putting in a gut- bust­ing shift.

Things don’t al­ways work out for the bouncy left- armer, and he can be costly if bats­men col­lar his short- of- a-length modus operandi.

But he’ll never die won­der­ing and yes­ter­day Wag­ner, who ad­mit­ted to not feel­ing the ball was com­ing out well in the morn­ing, had a day to truly savour, helped by some lame West Indies bat­ting.

Wag­ner, sec­ond change be­hind the strictly medium- pace dob­bers of Colin de Grand­homme, got through 14.4 overs un­changed other than for lunch and was al­ways chal­leng­ing.

Few bowlers can match Wag­ner for tenac­ity and will­ing­ness to push him­self with a short- pitched at­tack plan, which calls for con­sid­er­able craft not to pull the ball down too short and to keep bats­men hop­ping. How else to ex­plain his suc­cess?

“It was a bit of a bizarre day to be hon­est,” Wag­ner said. “I felt hor­ri­ble to be hon­est. It just felt like I didn’t have great rhythm.

“Even­tu­ally we worked to­wards a plan and it came off. I’ve bowled a lot bet­ter on other days when you don’t get a wicket, then you get days like this.”

He did get help at times. Some of the bats­men looked as com­fort­able as a drunk step­ping into a ca­noe.

Shim­ron Het­myer, Shai Hope and Ros­ton Chase should all have been look­ing hard at them­selves in the pavil­ion af­ter giv­ing Wag­ner an as­sist.

Last man Shan­non Gabriel be­came Wag­ner’s 600th first- class wicket. Only Richard Hadlee twice and Chris Cairns have bet­ter test in­nings fig­ures.

But Wag­ner says he’s “not re­ally” a sta­tis­ti­cally- driven player.

“It’s a funny one but if you take none- for and win the game, that’s the most im­por­tant thing for me.

“There’s no runs or wick­ets on the couch. What­ever I can do for the team to get a re­sult is the most im­por­tant thing. The things you re­mem­ber for the rest of your life are test vic­to­ries.”

The West Indies coach Stu­art Law said his bats­men were “bit­terly dis­ap­pointed” with their ef­fort, but he was im­pressed with Wag­ner.

“He’s a funny char­ac­ter,” the for­mer Aus­tralian bats­man said.

“He’s not very tall, not su­per quick but his bumper skids and that can be off­putting.

“Fair play to him, he bowled well and ag­gres­sively and we helped him out with a few free­bies.”

Pic­ture / Photosport

Neil Wag­ner cel­e­brates the wicket of Shim­ron Het­myer.

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