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Neil Wagner

Cricket Inside Out: Why does Neil Wagner bowl so many short balls?

Stat chat

In the first episode of Cricket Inside Out, host Elma Smit asks our expert panelists, Shaun Pollock and Harsha Bhogle, about why Neil Wagner bowls so many bouncers.

The New Zealand seamer, currently ranked No.2 in the MRF Tyres ICC Men's Test Rankings for bowling, has made 48 Test appearances and has already claimed 206 wickets at an average of 26.60. The numbers are impressive but Wagner offers even more than his numbers suggest. His most dangerous weapon is his short ball, and his capability to deliver them consistently across long spells.

One of the most eye-catching facts about Wagner is that, since January 2018, he has bowled 1068 short balls, over 30 per cent more than his closest competitor Pat Cummins (811) and almost twice as many as third-placed Ben Stokes (568). 

Most short balls bowled by pacers in Tests since January 2018
Most short balls bowled by pacers in Tests since January 2018

"I think it's been innovative to say the least," said Pollock, one of our panelists. "I think he's come up with a game plan that suits him and he's been able to execute. It's a perfect foil to the rest of the bowling line-up. They have got the ability to shape it.

"But when he comes on, the game plan is simple, the captain sets the field according to that length of delivery and unfortunately for the batsmen, they don't actually come across this kind of bowling that often, so when they do face it, they think to themselves, 'What are the options? Surely I can take this on or surely I can just do this and that.' And until you are out and having to face the cauldron of the actual competition and the deliveries that he's bowling, you can't really work out your plan and that's why I think he's been brilliant. In the last year, we were voting for the Test Team of the Year and his stats were second to none."

Video Exclusive 26 Apr 20
Cricket Inside Out: Shaun Pollock and Harsha Bhogle on the success of Wagner's short-ball tactics


Bhogle also spoke in-depth about Wagner's importance to New Zealand, adding variety to their pace attack which features the likes of Trent Boult and Tim Southee. 

"[New Zealand] are blessed to have someone like Wagner coming on the back of Southee and Boult. I mean, Boult swinging it in, Southee swinging it away, assuming to a right-hand batsman, and then all of a sudden you think, 'you know what I've got this swing covered' and then comes this fellow, coming in and banging it in short and hustling you along.

"I think New Zealand are absolutely blessed to have such variety with their bowling and as Polly [Pollock] says, there is a lot more to his bowling than just come in, bang in short. He's not a one-dimensional bowler, you don't get that many wickets like that."

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