New Zealand's pace bowling cup runneth over in England; now the microscope shifts to the top-order batting as the tourists eye an unchanged 11 for a fourth successive test.
After Neil Wagner and Doug Bracewell took 15 wickets between them to bowl New Zealand to a 107-run victory over a weak Derbyshire side, England A loom at Leicester starting tomorrow night in a tough pre-test shakedown.
Captain Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Tim Southee and Trent Boult will all play their first matches of the tour.
Wagner looks likely to rest after shedding his right toenail during his match haul of 8-78 which seemingly booked his spot for the first test at Lord's ahead of Bracewell.
And coach Mike Hesson confirmed he would play a shadow test batting lineup which will indicate whether Dean Brownlie has defied the challenge of Martin Guptill, which appears likely after his first innings 71 and Guptill's lack of runs.
Openers Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton, whose centuries put New Zealand in matchwinning positions in Dunedin and Auckland, both need mind-easing innings at Leicester after totalling 37 between them in Derby. And Taylor's form at No 4, against England tourists Graham Onions and Chris Woakes will carry the most intrigue after a lean home summer.
But for now, Hesson was content after a stirring effort by his pacemen, encouraging form by Kane Williamson and BJ Watling, and a comfortable victory.
Wagner needed a big spell after being outshone by Bracewell on day two, and he bristled with aggression in snaring 5-45 as Derbyshire were skittled for 227. A month practising with the English Duke ball paid dividends as it hooped around and, encouragingly for Wagner, later offered reverse swing which adds a string to his bow.
"Even when it's flat he wants the ball. He just keeps charging in as we saw in the three tests in New Zealand," Hesson said.
"He's a guy that can bowl long spells and it means you can rotate the other guys, and he can also bowl with the old [ball] which is pretty important."
Wagner showed the endurance that endeared him to New Zealand fans during the drawn home series. And he unleashed some aggression, too, notably when he hurled the ball back to try to run out Billy Goldeman and hit his gloves, knocking the bat from his hands.
"I must be the most hated guy in cricket. Even my mates hate me when I play cricket," Wagner quipped.
"But I take a lot of passion and pride in playing for my country and I'm very aware that every ball I bowl is representing New Zealand.
"Once I step off the pitch, I'm fine. I'll have a beer and a chat with anyone and I leave it all out there. But I like to create little battles to keep myself going and stop myself from getting lazy."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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