Neil Wagner provides the 'extra punch we need' – Shane Jurgensen

Pitches in New Zealand tend to flatten out after a roaring start, but even though opposition teams struggle to get wickets in the second innings, New Zealand’s own quicks are generally capable of bowling their team to victory. Why? Because they hunt as a pack, according to their bowling coach Shane Jurgensen.

There was evidence of that teamwork as they removed four Sri Lanka batsmen on day four – three of those wickets falling to Neil Wagner. The performance left New Zealand four further wickets from victory, with day five to play. In fact they may only need three wickets, if the injured Angelo Mathews does not bat again.

“It’s awesome, because I think the bowlers actually bounce off each other,” Jurgensen said after play. “They all get on with each other – they’re really good mates. You’ve got the two left-handers in Neil and Trent Boult, and then you’ve got Tim Southee and Colin de Grandhomme, when there’s a bit more on offer in terms of seam and swing. You’ve got those four guys – two lefties and two righties. Neil’s ability to bowl those bouncers, it just adds another string in the bow for the group.

“One of the big things with our bowling is we want to bowl in partnerships and put pressure on from both ends. I think that’s what we did in the first innings and that’s we needed all our bowlers to do in the second.”

Having arrived in New Zealand only six days before this series started, following their three Tests in the UAE, New Zealand’s bowlers have also had to contend with a huge workload, having earlier spent six months without any international cricket on their schedule. Boult – New Zealand’s quickest bowler – has played in all five of those Tests, and Tim Southee has played four.

“Trent is really fit,” Jurgensen said. “I think that’s what I’ve been really impressed with our bowling group – it’s our fifth test in six-and-a-half or seven weeks, and it’s a testament to their fitness during the winter, how hard they’ve worked, to still keep trucking in. Neil just provides that extra punch that we need, particularly at the back end of the game, and you saw another example of that today. He’s been doing it for a while now for us.”

Perhaps the best on-field battle of day five was Wagner v Dinesh Chandimal. In the past, teams have targeted Chandimal with the short ball, on account of his reputation for being an impulsive hooker. Aware of this potential weakness, New Zealand and Wagner bowled a lot of bouncers at Chandimal, without much success for the first two sessions, with Chandimal routinely ducking or swaying out of the way.

It was Wagner who eventually got his wicket. Early in the third session, Chandimal could not get out of the way of a delivery headed toward his throat, and ended up fending at it with his gloves, sending an easy catch to short leg. Wagner was ecstatic at having taken that wicket, letting out an almighty scream.

“I was a good battle between them,” Jurgensen said. “Dinesh batted very well, he applied himself fantastically. His hook shot is certainly something that we’ve targeted. But one of the things that I was mentioning in the dressing room is that I don’t think he’s playing the pull or hook shot today, so maybe we need to change our fields slightly to suit that. Eventually Neil got him.”

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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