New Zealand bowler Neil Wagner is threatening Sir Richard Hadlee’s fastest New Zealand bowler to take 100 Test wickets.
Hadlee is the current fastest New Zealand cricketer to take 100 Test wicket in 86 six years of New Zealand’s Test cricket. Now the 30-year-old might threaten Tim Southee and Trent Boult for their frontline roles.
Wagner has 94 wickets from 23 Tests. Hadlee reached a century of dismissals in his 25th Test. To add further context, Bruce Taylor completed the feat in 27 Tests, Danny Morrison, Daniel Vettori, Southee and Boult took 29. The only bowler to loom into the reckoning for Hadlee’s feat was Shane Bond. He reached 87 wickets in 18 Tests before retiring.
Statistics can never be a definitive guide to someone’s team contribution, given the variables at play in a cricket team.
However, the fact Wagner has taken a wicket in each of his Test, and only missed collecting in five of 43 innings, indicates his value. Whether that is enough to be retained in the starting XI for three Tests in spin-friendly India will be an intriguing call.
Now the question is if New Zealand opts to play Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, and Mark Craig, does that make the South-Boult partnership vulnerable? The pair has been New Zealand’s finest new-ball pairing since Hadlee and Richard Collinge, and arguably the best ever, but that does not guarantee selection given Wagner’s form and their respective slumps since the start of the year.
In six Tests, Southee has taken 14 wickets at 46.14 average. Compare to a career average of 32.63 in 52 tests with a strike rate of 64.
Meanwhile, Boult has taken 116 wickets at 38.62 with a strike rate of 82. He averages 29.32 across 43 Tests with a strike rate of 59.
This year, Wagner has 27 wickets in five Tests at an average of 18.66 and strike rate of 43. Those statistics give bowling coach Shane Jurgensen a clear working brief in an area in which New Zealand has lacked impact since Bond’s exit as a mentor after the 2015 World Cup.