Cricket: What the Windies don't know about Wagner - yet

Neil Wagner has been the leading wicket-taker in the Plunket Shield for the past two seasons with...
Neil Wagner has been the leading wicket-taker in the Plunket Shield for the past two seasons with 97 wickets at an average of 22.03.
Otago bowler Neil Wagner will be an unknown quantity for the West Indies, should the left-armer make his international debut in the first test beginning in Antigua next week. Cricket writer Adrian Seconi looks at four areas of Wagner's background.

The left-armer created history when he took five wickets in one over during a Plunket Shield game in Queenstown last year.

One of the YouTube clips has had more than 200,000 views, so the cat is out of the bag. But while it was a great day for the 26-year-old, he has built an impressive record over a much longer period.

He has been the leading wicket-taker in the Plunket Shield for the past two seasons, with 97 wickets at an average of 22.03. In 53 first-class games he has taken 10 five-wicket bags and 10 wickets in a match once, and also boasts a healthy strike rate of 43.34.

Photos by Peter McIntosh.
Photos by Peter McIntosh.
He is no Daniel Vettori but Wagner varies his pace. He is capable of bowling quickly and is not afraid to bend his back and pitch it short. But his stock delivery is brisk, rather than lightning, and he relies on swing, more than seam, to remove batsmen.

That style should suit the abrasive surface the Blacks Caps are likely to find in Antigua. Once the ball gets roughed up it might start reversing, and that is when Wagner is at his best.

The South African-born player has been waiting for a chance to strut his stuff on an international stage since making the decision to transfer to Otago and align with the Black Caps in the summer of 2008-09.

Originally, he understood he would have to stand down for three years. But he had to wait an extra year before he was eligible to play for his adopted country and then that eligibility was called into question, when the ICC realised he had left the country to attend a wedding and play in the Champions League for Otago.

West Indies great Michael Holding famously kicked the stumps down at Carisbrook in 1980 when a decision went against the fast bowler. So far, Wagner's footwork has been limited to wild swings at the turf, but he does struggle to keep his emotions in check on the field.

He gesticulates theatrically.

He is constantly falling over in his follow-through. He leaves the field with what looks like a serious injury only to return a few minutes later. He can make the banal melodramatic.

But he can also be relied on to get through his workload despite the all the drama and, when his nostrils are flaring, there is no better bowler in the country.


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