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Neil Wagner_NZ

Returning Wagner has sights set on ‘drying up’ Kohli

New Zealand news

New Zealand fast bowler Neil Wagner, who is all set to return to the XI after missing the first Test against India due to the birth of his child, has his eyes set on Virat Kohli, the opposition’s biggest batsman, ahead of the second Test in Christchurch, starting on Saturday, 29 February.

Wagner has made a career out of bending his back for long periods and hitting the deck hard. It has allowed him to develop a lethal short ball that has fetched him scores of wickets in the past, and he intends to continue that, with his target this time being the world’s No.2 Test batsman.

"Every team I play against, I always try and target and go for their best players, because you know what a big stride it makes within a team when you get their best players out," Wagner told Stuff. "Drying him up, making sure they don't score and putting a lot of pressure on him from both ends [is imperative]."

He (Kyle Jamieson) will take a lot of confidence from it (his debut performance), and it'll do him a hell of a lot of good for his future as well, leading into the games he's definitely going to play in the near future.

Neil Wagner

Wagner has often made docile tracks look lively and has exerted himself to the last ounce of energy in doing so. It’s a lot different to the more sedate bowler who made his Test debut in 2012. Looking back to the source of his reinvention as a bowler, Wagner picked the first Test from India’s previous tour of New Zealand, in 2013/14, when he snuffed out a spirited Indian chase of 407, by snaring 4/62, as New Zealand ultimately prevailed by 40 runs.

"I think it was a stage where I was still trying to find my feet in the team and trying to find a way of getting a role and doing my role in the team," Wagner said. "That's one of the Test matches where it did turn. The way I bowl at the moment, that's where it started.

"It was an amazing Test win, and something I always look back to and I think it kickstarted my career. Before that, I was going through the phase where you have quite a few ups and downs and try to find your feet."

Wagner was also glowing in his praise for debutant Kyle Jamieson, who, in Wagner’s absence in Wellington, took four first-innings wickets and followed it up with a 45-ball 44 to give New Zealand a massive first-innings lead of 183 and set up their 10-wicket win.

"Exceptional," Wagner said. "Really glad and happy for him to get his opportunity, and for him to have done what he's done. He'll take a lot of confidence from it, and it'll do him a hell of a lot of good for his future as well, leading into the games he's definitely going to play in the near future.

"So very happy for him, and I really hope he enjoyed that limousine ride [a traditional New Zealand way of celebrating a Wellington Test win], because it's something really special, and I know it's a memory that'll always be with him."

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