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Wagner thrives with short-pitched approach

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 29/07/2016

Short-pitched bowling has become a trademark for Black Caps seamer Neil Wagner - and it's paying dividends in Zimbabwe. © AFP Photo/Jekesai Njikizana Short-pitched bowling has become a trademark for Black Caps seamer Neil Wagner - and it's paying dividends in Zimbabwe. Neil Wagner admits intimidating bowling has become an entrenched part of his armoury after overwhelming Zimbabwe on the first day of the first Test in Bulawayo.

Wagner maintained the method successfully adopted in New Zealand's domestic summer, peppering the home batsmen with short-pitched bowling to take a career-best 6-41 on Thursday.

After dismissing Zimbabwe for 164, New Zealand were 32 without loss and once again thankful for the impact of Wagner on a lifeless wicket.

He was the most effective Black Cap at home six months ago, taking 16 wickets in three Tests.

Unwanted for a year, he returned to ruffle Sri Lanka twice with his bumpers and even had Australia jumping when taking 6-106 in the first innings of the Test at Hagley Oval.

The 30-year-old admits he has a specific aggressor role when coming on after new ball pair Trent Boult and Tim Southee.

"It's obviously a tactic of mine that's one of my strengths," he said.

"It's just an option of trying to get players off the front foot and creating opportunities - to try to see if we can get a wicket or get some doubt in their footwork and get a nick when you're pitching it up."

The figures were the best by any Test bowler at the Queens Sports Club venue, against a Zimbabwe batting line-up which can expect more of the same in the second innings after their techniques were exposed.

Twenty-Test veteran Wagner was simply happy to get another opportunity, selected ahead of worthy squad members Matt Henry and Doug Bracewell.

He says the competition among the five seamers on tour was lifting the standards of all of them, complementing the spin of three slow-bowling contenders - Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and Mark Craig.

"Sometimes it's a coach's nightmare but it's a good position to be in, to have that quality of fast bowlers and spin bowlers in the team puts us in good stead," he said.

"We're all pretty close, they're a good bunch of lads. That's why our team spirit is the way it is."

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