Bowler hits right note despite being off key at times
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.”
Neil Wagner celebrates the wicket of Shimron Hetmyer.