Cricket: Wholehearted Wagner brings up milestone

By David Leggat

History repeated for the second time inside a year for Neil Wagner at Hagley Oval today.

The bustling left armer opened the door for New Zealand with a wholehearted effort which brought two wickets just as Pakistan were knuckling down and pushing towards parity with New Zealand.

He removed Babar Azam, then Younis Khan with a cracking ball and Pakistan were reeling.

Last summer Wagner was indefatigable against Australia, taking a career-best six for 106, including four to catches between mid-wicket and square leg to short deliveries.

His short ball routine again worked a treat today as he reached his 100th test wicket milestone.

"I guess that's my job to do," he said of the short-ball strategy. "When it's not swinging and also conditions are starting to get a little easier to bat on, you've got to try to make something happen.

Luckily today it paid off."

It took Wagner 26 tests to get to the 100-wicket milestone, one fewer than Sir Richard Hadlee, but Wagner laughed that off. Hadlee, he said, was a deserving holder of that mark.

"It's amazing," he said of reaching the ton. "A great feeling. I never thought in my wildest dreams about getting to 100 wickets. Whichever way I can play a part for the team and deliver a role, I just want to keep contributing."

He likes bowling at Hagley Oval.

"We know how it works here. There's always something in the wicket, but with the sunshine out and a bit of wind, it was quite tough.

"I thought we bowled exceptionally well in partnerships," he said, heaping praise on new ball pair Trent Boult and Tim Southee.

Wagner earned high praise himself from Pakistan's coach coach Mickey Arthur. He knows Wagner well from their Pretoria days, when Wagner would bowl in the nets against the international players and help out around the dressing room during matches.

"I've always been a massive admirer of Neil," Arthur said tonight. "I got to know him pretty well and I'm not surprised to see him doing exceptionally well. He's a wholehearted trier, gives it his all. He kept running in all day and I thought he was magnificent."

In turn, Wagner was chuffed to catch up with Arthur, who also coached South Africa, and talk about the old days before both moved onto different forks in their careers.

"I couldn't believe where we are today," Wagner said.

Arthur wouldn't look for an excuse over Pakistan's late batting stumble by blaming the rained-out warmup game in Nelson.

"We've played a massive amount of cricket. We were aware of what we were going to get and we trained accordingly.

"It would have given our batsmen a real opportunity to test the conditions so that was particularly disappointing, but we could never hold that as an excuse. The international merry-go-round, that's what happens."

- NZ Herald

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