Wagner endorsed for test team pace attack

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 04/03/2013

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WAGNER GETS BACKING: After a great match for New Zealand XI, Neil Wagner is being backed for a test spot.

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Neil Wagner should play in the first test against England in Dunedin starting on Wednesday in a four-pronged pace attack, says former national coach Warren Lees.

Lees provided commentary at the four-day warmup game with England in Queenstown which finished on Saturday. The New Zealand XI had a surprise three-wicket win, with Wagner producing match figures of 6-154 from 45.2 overs.

Wagner, who also scored 11no and 28no in the match, won the unofficial trial for the 13th spot in the Black Caps' initial test squad. "I was really impressed with him," Lees said. "It was a difficult pitch for him to bowl on but one thing about Wagner - out of all the players on show in Queenstown, he probably gave the biggest effort.

"He charged in on the last ball of the day like most people charge in on the first ball. He gives 100 per cent; he's desperate to be in this test team and he's showed, I reckon, that he was the player that wanted to perform more than anyone else."

Common sense would suggest the only tough decision the Black Caps' management - who like the players arrived in Dunedin last night - have to make is whether to play Auckland spinner Bruce Martin or Wagner.

Wagner hasn't overtaken Doug Bracewell, Trent Boult or Tim Southee in the quick bowling pecking order and would play in the quick bowling trio only if there was an injury.

With the short straight boundaries at Dunedin's University Oval and the wicket expected to be seamer-friendly, Lees wasn't convinced playing Martin just for the sake of it made sense.

"There's no rule that says you have to play a spin bowler in a test match," he said.

The New Zealand XI win filled Lees with confidence and the 60-year-old said it should do the same for the Black Caps.

"I don't know that I've been this excited about a test match in 10 years.

"I've got a feeling from what I saw in Queenstown that not all is lost with New Zealand Cricket.

"I know they've been through some traumas recently, and there were some dreadful mistakes made, but I think they're going to come out the other side." 

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