New Zealand herald Wagner as architect of historic follow-on win

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New Zealand made history against England, becoming the first team in 22 years to win after being asked to follow on in a Test match, and only the fourth side in history to do so.

The stunning scenes in Wellington saw Tim Southee’s side draw the series 1-1, leaving the Black Caps captain to jointly hold the trophy aloft with England’s Ben Stokes.

And to have produced a win in such stunning fashion is a ‘special’ moment for a cricketer who has experienced plenty of them.

“I have to say it ranks right up there,” Southee said. “There have only been a handful of sides to be asked to follow on and win so it is pretty special.

“I imagine it'll be a Test match that's talked about for a long time.

“We were on the back foot after two days and the character shown over the last three days has been really pleasing,” he added.

“It is great for Test cricket the way England have been playing and it was another great Test match to be involved in.

“All the guys here cherish Test cricket and hopefully having matches like this will be good for Test cricket going forward.”

The hero on the fifth day for New Zealand was Neil Wagner, who had been targeted for much of the two-match series by England’s batters.

The 36-year-old was smashed for 373 runs across the series at an economy rate of 5.68 over 65.4 overs.

But Wagner kept on coming, and it was the veteran who made the big final impression on the series with his short-pitched approach, taking four wickets on the last day to remove Ollie Pope, break the key partnership by dismissing both Ben Stokes and Joe Root, and then take the final match-winning wicket of James Anderson.

"We went back to what Wags' biggest strength is," Southee said. "He bought into it, he trusted it, even though it hadn't come off as he'd have liked in the series.

"We trusted his best method and he was able to come in and change the game in this last session.

"It's an unusual tactic that you see a little bit more of nowadays, but it's something Neil's done for a long period of time. For him to come in and change the game there, when it looked like Ben and Joe had almost taken it away from us was a massive part of this game, and shows you the ticker that Neil's got.

"It shows more about him as a character and a cricketer. He doesn't give up. It's in his DNA to keep giving to this team. And I think we saw that and how valuable he can be: when nothing was really happening, and into the wind as well, he was able to change the game in that last session."

Wagner himself added: “That's the characteristics of this team, we keep having to fight for each other, find a way of doing the hard yards out there, and we did.

“It's a special one, this, and we'll celebrate it well. It's an amazing achievement, and obviously everybody contributed, so hats off to everyone.

“That's what this team is about, to keep fighting and it's just something that we're extremely proud of.”

England’s loss is just their second in 11 Tests since the appointment of Ben Stokes as captain and Brendon McCullum as head coach, and the defeat meant that this was the first of four series since taking over that the duo have not won.

But New Zealander McCullum, who played alongside Wagner during his career, was gracious with his praise for the match-winning fast bowler.

“It's a tough game, right, and tough characters have to find a way and they do,” McCullum said.

“Neil Wagner is one of the toughest that I've come across. Obviously I had the pleasure of captaining them for a long period of time, and now playing against him, you know that he's got a huge heart and he'll find a way when the going gets tough.

“He was good today. He was better than good, he was excellent. He turned the game on its head.”


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