Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Wagner's war of words for English batsmen

Neil Wagner's candid responses have been refreshing since he graduated to cricket's international ranks in July 2012. His conscience seems to refuse to evade questions.

Ahead of the Headingley test, Wagner admitted to being the team's sledging spearhead, saying some of his teammates are probably looking at him sometimes thinking: "shut up".

"I like to seize any opportunity to squeeze something out of a situation. It's often a spur of the moment thing. I think it's about getting into a guy's face. It's about irritating batsmen, making them angry so that they think 'I really want to hit this guy for four'. You've got to get them to the point where they hate you. It sometimes make them think about something else in a split-second concentration lapse that could give you a wicket."

Here is Wagner's symphony assessing the England top order and their vulnerability to the odd chirp.

Alastair Cook

"The more you talk to Cooky, the better he plays. He has a good head. You just have to let him be. You might get him out when he relaxes sometimes being a bit overconfident.

When he's enjoying himself he might play a rash shot."

Nick Compton

"Compton is looking to find his feet. He played a rash shot in the first innings at Lord's out of nowhere, just tried to run down the wicket and charge one. Then he didn't score many in the second innings. We can thrive on that and put pressure on.

"You've got to be careful. When we tried to get under his skin at home, he played well and ended up scoring a hundred at Wellington. Some players thrive on that, others tend to be more nervous. There's a fine line. You've got to make sure you use it to the right sort of player.

Jonathan Trott

"It is a mind battle and a personal thing but I know Trotty and the way he is [both come from a South African background]. He would hate to get out to me.

"There was an occasion in the previous test between us. It wasn't premeditated but it was when I thought we'd got on top. He is one of those guys who is quite focused and I thought if I had a crack it might unsettle him. It didn't work that day but it did at Eden Park. We tried to get him driving and he played at one and nicked it. It's a spur of the moment thing. As soon as you see a little battle, you make the most of it."

Ian Bell

"I have a lot of respect for Ian. He always gives you a nod when you bowl him a good one or is happy to tell you 'well bowled'. You can't help but give him a smile. When he hits you for four he is just one of those guys who you nod to and say 'well played'. He's not really a guy you can get stuck into but I've had a couple of occasions when he drove me through the covers and pulled me for four - then you do give him a glare. You want a battle."

Joe Root

"He's pretty young but a top-class performer. However, it preys on your mind if you're playing somewhere [Headingley] where you've dreamed of playing as a kid [Root is a Yorkshireman]. It sometimes motivates you to do better, but if you get a couple of jaffas early, all of a sudden it puts you under pressure. Joe looks like he's got a level head. I don't think he'll struggle too much, but as a bowling unit, we'll have a couple of words and try to get underneath his skin."

Jonny Bairstow and Matt Prior

"Bairstow is a bit nervous at the moment. The same again with Prior who hasn't got any runs since New Zealand. We'll put the squeeze on them so they don't get anything."

- NZ Herald

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