Star Australia batsman Steve Smith has heaped praise on New Zealand pacer Neil Wagner, who was a standout performer in the touring side despite their struggle down under. Australia and New Zealand played 3 Test matches from December 2019 to January 2020 and the hosts were able to register gigantic wins in all three fixtures and whitewashed the Kiwis 3-0.
Out of 5 innings played in the series by Steve Smith, he was dismissed by Neil Wagner 4 times. Smith has credited the World No.3 bowler’s variation in pace and ability to consistently bowl bouncers as the reason for his success against him.
“Looking back at the last Test series, Neil Wagner got the better of me, he’s pretty good at what he does, he possesses a set of skills that not many people can do and he does it for a long period of time. While I had some contributions, my strike rate was down, but Test cricket, that’s the beauty of it, you can bat for as long as you like and form partnerships and I was able to do that,” Smith said, as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.
“So if others want to take that kind of approach then great. It’s not the same as what Neil does, the way he bowls it. I think what you’re alluding to is a short-pitched bowling sort of approach that others might take, and people can go for that. In a way it’s a bit of flattery if people believe that the only way they can get me out because they’ve exhausted so many more options, it gives me a lot of confidence to know that.”
As India and Australia are set to kick off the Australian summer later this month, Smith feels it will be difficult for the Indian pacers to recreate the kind of quality bowling that Wagner did with his “unique set of skills”.
“You look at Neil Wagner’s career, the way he bowls, I think he’s the No. 2 Test bowler in the world or something like that [No. 3] and you see the majority of wickets he’s got are from short-pitched bowling and the way they set that field up,” he said.
“He’s really patient and he’s able to do it all day. There’s not too many quick bowlers who can run in and bowl bouncers all day, and I guess the way Neil does it is particularly special. He gets balls between shoulder and rib height, he’s incredibly accurate, and then he’s got an ability to change his pace. I think that was one of the hardest things the guys, not just me but some of the other guys as well coped with last year, was he’d bowl one ball at 135kph, next ball would be 128, the next ball would be 130 and then 135.
“It was just tough to get a real rhythm against because balls were coming out at different paces. So I think he’s got a pretty unique set of skills, the way he does it. He’s done it to not just me but to plenty of batsmen around the world. It’s different to when anyone else has tried to do it.”