Neil Wagner was at his pitch-pounded best to make crucial inroads © Getty Images
Trent Boult and Tim Southee may be the spearheads of the attack, but on Saturday, it was Neil Wagner who first rattled Pakistan, and in so doing, beat his more illustrious team-mates to a milestone.
Babar Azam and Azhar Ali had settled into a partnership, when Wagner began to direct balls at their ribs. One of those caught Azam’s gloves and sailed through to the wicketkeeper, and gave Wagner his 100th wicket in his 25th Test. Boult and Southee had both needed 29 matches to rack up triple figures.
“I don’t think in my wildest dreams I’d thought about getting 100 wickets,” said Wagner. “I’m pretty pleased. Whichever way I can play a part for the team and deliver in a role, I’m happy. Whichever way it goes I want to keep contributing.”
Wagner was the second-fastest New Zealand bowler to the milestone, behind Richard Hadlee, who had achieved the feat in 24 games. “I’m more than happy for Sir Richard Hadlee to keep that record, because he’s an absolute legend,” Wagner said. “I’m stoked to get to 100, but there’s still a long way to go.”
The dismissal of Azam had in fact been the first of a bouncer double-strike, which also accounted for the wicket of Younis Khan. Wagner had a short ball leap at Younis’ throat early in his innings, and the batsman could do nothing more than attempt to fend it away. The ball collected the glove en route to the wicketkeeper.
“That’s just my job to do something different,” Wagner said. “We know how it works out here – today there was a bit of wind, and that stops the ball from swinging. When conditions start getting a little easier to bat on, I’ve got to try and make something happen. It doesn’t always happen, but luckily today was one of those days when it paid off. I think we had to work long periods of time to get that success, and we did.”
In between wickets New Zealand were relentlessly disciplined, with each of the quicks bowling a very high percentage of dot balls. Of the 66 overs bowled in Pakistan’s second innings, 25 were maidens – the visitors’ run rate a mere 1.95. A late flurry of wickets also meant Pakistan were left seven down, with a lead of only 62.
“I thought we bowled exceptionally well in partnerships,” Wagner said. “It was some quality fast bowling. We created pressure for long periods of time and got rewards for it towards the end.”
Boult had the innings’ best figures of 3 for 18 at stumps, though Southee had bowled the highest percentage of maidens, delivering 10 scoreless overs out of 19 in total. Wagner said the opening pair had set the tone.
“The way Tim and Trent opened the bowling – they are two of the best bowlers going around when they bowl like that. They’re just absolute class. Seeing them go about the work they did and pressure they built – I think at the start they were going at one run an over – it just shows the class of those two bowlers.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo