Neil Wagner, the New Zealand seamer, who has risen to No.5 on the MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings for bowlers, is finding satisfaction in being a team man, with his hard work reaping due reward for the side.
Wagner isn't the quickest fast bowler going around, but equipped with relentless perseverance, he has devised a way to pry batsmen out on a consistent basis even on the most batting-friendly surfaces.
In the last three years, he has been New Zealand's most prolific seamer with 100 wickets from 23 games at 23.88. Him outshining Trent Boult and Tim Southee in this period is particularly impressive given that he seldom operates with the new ball.
Neil Wagner storms into top five in the latest @MRFWorldwide ICC Test Rankings for bowlers, and also joins an elite list of New Zealand bowlers. 👀— ICC (@ICC) March 13, 2019
⬇️ DETAILS ⬇️https://t.co/o3xlib2OjZpic.twitter.com/7DHBINebfx
On occasion he has demonstrated that he too can get the ball to move in the air, but that isn't his primary focus. Instead, he specialises in short-pitched bowling, getting the ball to rise at uncomfortable heights that batsmen are often forced to play at.
His exploits have been recognised with consistent gains in the MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings for bowlers, and in the latest update he became only the third Black Caps bowler to cross the 800-point barrier, rising to a career-best fifth spot in the process. Wagner was delighted that his efforts were recognised in the rankings chart.
"Nice thing to achieve and really nice one for me," he said. "It's obviously what I can contribute to the team to the best of my ability and this is sort of the silver lining on top of it. [I] don't really try and focus too much on it. At the end of the day, it's [about] doing my role and for us winning a Test match is the most important thing and I guess that's the most satisfying feeling."
Wagner turned 33 on 13 March – the day he also achieved the latest milestone as a fitting birthday present. But he's getting no younger, especially by fast bowler standards, and his body has started to show signs of wear. But contributing to victories makes the toil worth it.
"It is tough, the body takes its toll, you do obviously get sore, fatigued and it takes a couple of days to recover afterwards," he said. "It's a nice feeling that goes with it when you do get that result and when you get that Test win it makes it even more satisfying. It makes the recovery a little bit easier and smoother too."
Wagner fancies the more conventional fast-bowler dismissals like uprooting the stumps after deceiving the batsmen's defences with swing. However, he also enjoys that his style of bowling "brings the team into play".
"Obviously as a bowler you wish for wickets where you can bowl and swing one through the gate, take the top of middle ... bowl middle stump out off the ground. I don't think there's a more satisfying feeling as a bowler sometimes.
"But what I do like about my dismissals is that it sort of brings the team into play, the catches that guys take ... there's phenomenal catching and not easy positions too ... I wouldn't have as many wickets if it's not for that and I sort of feel I'm part of a bigger picture with that too."
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