Wagner embraces role as sledger-in-chief
Neil Wagner has embraced his role as New Zealand sledger-in-chief and provided a gleeful British media with his hit list of English batsmen.
Wagner has 16 wickets from his past four tests against England and continues to stave off Doug Bracewell for the third seamer's role. And, ahead of tonight's second and final test at Headingley, Wagner was happy to explain to an enthralled audience how his happy off-field persona turned into white line fever.
"It's more about getting into a guy's face. It's about irritating them, make them really angry. Make them look at you and think 'I really do want to hit this guy for four'," Wagner said.
"You have just got to get them to the point where they really hate you. When you get to that point you sometimes make them think about something else in a split second of concentration lapse that could give you a wicket."
Asked who was the biggest sledger in the New Zealand side, Wagner said he would probably win out ahead of Tim Southee.
"I think some of my teammates are looking at me thinking 'shut up'. I am one of the guys who definitely likes to have a bit of yarn and keep the boys going and keep motivating them and keep the buzz on the field. Also just looking for little battles and creating something."
Those battles have extended throughout the home and away series, and included fellow South African-born pair Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior, the latter who Wagner played alongside during a brief stint with Sussex's second XI.
Here's Wagner's edited player-by-player assessment of England's batting lineup and whether the verbals are worth it:
Alastair Cook: "Cooky is just one of those guys that the more you try and talk to him the better he is going to play."
Nick Compton: "Compton is looking to find his feet a bit, he played a rash shot in the first innings out of nowhere, just tried to run down the wicket and charge one. Then he didn't score in the second innings. We can obviously thrive on that and try to put a bit of pressure on."
Jonathan Trott: "It was just a moment [at Lord's] where I thought we had got a little bit on top. He is one of those guys who is quite focused and I thought I would have a little bit of a crack and it might unsettle him. It didn't really work out on that day but it did at Eden Park ... I know Trotty and he would hate to get out to me."
Ian Bell: "He always gives you a little bit of a nod when you give him a good one or always happy to tell you well bowled. You can't help but give him a bit of a smile."
Joe Root: "He looks like he's got a good head on his shoulders, I don't think he'll struggle too much with it, but we'll definitely have a couple of words and try to get underneath his skin a bit."