New Zealand’s bowlers were at the mercy of ‘Bazball’ on day one of the first test against England, but there was at least consolation to be found for the engine of their attack.
As the Blackcaps toiled against the high-octane approach from the tourists, veteran Neil Wagner quietly reached a special milestone of 250 test wickets.
With their bowling stocks depleted, Wagner shared the new ball with captain Tim Southee, but it wasn’t until the ball got older and the challenge that much harder, that the left-arm fast bowler struck, removing Joe Root after an audacious reverse slap.
It would take almost another 30 overs for Wagner to grab his second – bowling star batter Harry Brook – before cleaning up the tail.
In his very next over, he dismissed Ben Foakes to bring up 250 test wickets, before appropriately grabbing the last, as England declared at 325/9.
The South African-born fast bowler admits he never imagined he would reach the landmark, after making his test debut for his adopted country in 2012.
“If you told me the day I started playing test cricket I’d take 250 wickets, I would have laughed and said ‘no, I don’t believe you’.
“It’s something pretty special to achieve. I don’t really try and focus on those things too much, just try and find a way of contributing to the team, and those things will take care of itself.
“It’s a little silver lining in the backend of it, and it’s quite nice to celebrate it and toast that with your teammates who have played a big part in all of those [wickets].”
Wagner’s contribution on day one wasn’t just limited to the ball, as he survived a tricky period with the bat to protect New Zealand’s middle order.
The Blackcaps will enter day two at 37/3, with Devon Conway (17no) at the crease with Wagner (4no) and still trailing by 288 runs.
But Wagner remains optimistic about his side’s chances, and is challenging the Blackcaps to follow England’s lead and adapt to the conditions.
“I thought, when it got to the point when they bowled under lights, you could see that it was a little bit better and there was more assistance, because the wind died down,” he said.
“Obviously, under lights, with no wind around, it’s going to swing around and they made full use of that, and bowled really well and put us under pressure.
“If we can do the same tomorrow and build partnerships, try and get through that day period, and try and get ourselves to bowl under lights, we can find ourselves in a similar position.
“It could’ve easily have gone the other way and I think everyone knows, can see, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that, at night time, it does swing around, and it does seem to do quite a lot off the wicket.
“A tough period to bat and I thought we handled it quite well… three quality England bowlers bowling in conditions that were very favourable and really challenging, and that’s what test cricket is all about.”
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