Former captain Ricky Ponting has issued the Australian batsman a warning when it comes to facing Neil Wagner in the three-match Test series against the Kiwis. Having helped his side secure a series win over England at home, Wagner comes into the series as the 4th ranked Test bowler in the world.
Although he started his Test career more than a decade ago, the South-African born Wagner has never once played a Test match in the Aussie territory. However, Ponting does not want his team’s batsmen to go into the series unaware of the persistent short-ball threat that Wagner possesses.
Since 2013, he's taken more wickets with bouncers than any other bowler; his 67 scalps with balls classified as 'short' by Opta are 22 more than the next most, Stuart Broad. And his recent numbers overall are not too bad either: 35 victims at an average of 20 in his last six matches, with four consecutive five-wicket hauls.
How an Aussie side, known widely to be the team that dishes out short-pitched bowling to others, would take on Wagner will be an intriguing matter come the first Test at Perth from December 12.
"With Boult and Southee in their line-up, if the ball doesn’t move around, I think they might find it difficult. Wagner is the one who’s having a good 12-18 months for them and we know what he’s like – he runs in quick and bangs the ball in and uses his bouncers really well. He’s someone the Aussies are going to have to look out for," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"That's his job. He just runs in … and bowls most balls between your hip and your armpit. If you're going to score off him, you've got to score off him with a horizontal bat. They'll use him as their enforcer … What they have is a well-rounded attack. Guys with the new ball who pitch it up and try to swing it and Wagner comes in behind them and bowls fast and short," he added.
With Wagner’s help, the Black Caps' have ascended to second ICC's Test team rankings, behind only India, having won eight of their 10 Test series in the past three years. Though the 33-year-old admits his particular approach to bowling takes a toll on him, he counts it all gain for the sake of his team.
"I have to sometimes go to a bit of a dark place to do what I do because it's not easy bowling bouncer after bouncer – it takes its toll. I'm passionate and I love representing my country and the sacrifices made to get to this point make it all worth a little bit of hard work," Wagner told NZ television station Newshub.
"You want that ball in your hand during that final session – because sitting in the changing rooms with my mates after we win a Test match for New Zealand – I love the satisfaction on everyone's face and know that I contributed to that," Wagner concluded.
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