Vodafone Test Series v India
India can't match bumper-machine Wagner: Wade
Virat Kohli's side will be as big a challenge this current Aussie team has had, says Matthew Wade, but does not expect them to be able to replicate what Neil Wagner did last summer
30 July 2020, 05:17 PM AEST
Matthew Wade expects more sustained short-pitched onslaughts this summer but warned that not even India's world-class pace attack will be able to match New Zealand's bouncer-bowling extraordinaire, Neil Wagner.
Wade's showdown with Wagner in Perth was the most enthralling contest of a one-sided Test summer, with the punchy Tasmanian taking a series of blows to his body as he refused to fall into the leg-side trap that would ensnare the previously infallible Steve Smith several times during the series.
As Australia's top-order piled on runs, Wagner's unusual tactics proved the only effective bowling strategy the Kiwis had up their sleeve.
In a 0-3 series loss, the ultra-fit left-arm quick took 17 wickets at 22.76,
The rest of New Zealand's bowlers combined for 28 wickets at 53.39.
The fact Wagner dismissed Australia's three leading batsmen – Smith, David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne – a combined 10 times will not have gone unnoticed by India, who are set for a four-Test tour of Australia this summer.
Virat Kohli's men defeated the Aussies 2-1 in 2018-19 but Smith and Warner were banned for that series, while Labuschagne played just one Test.
Wade, who has also since established himself as a reliable middle-order presence, says replicating Wagner's method will be harder than it looks.
"Teams may try it but I don't think it will be as successful," Wade told cricket.com.au.
"I don't think anyone in the game has bowled bouncers the way he bowled and been so consistent, and not gotten scored off while also picking up wickets.
"I think we'll see it a bit (from India) but I don't think it will be as effective as Wagner. He's done it for a long time now … to be honest I've never faced a bowler who is so accurate at bowling bouncers."
Australia coach Justin Langer likened Wade and Wagner to "street fighters" but Wade stressed his approach was not as primitive as it might have appeared.
He explained that Wagner's remarkable stamina and relentless accuracy made his bumpers even more difficult to contend with than those of England tearaway Jofra Archer, who peppered the left-hander during the 2019 Ashes.
"If you looked at all the bouncers (Wagner) bowled … he's always between your shoulder and the top of your (helmet) peak, or in your armpits," said Wade.
"It's very easy to say, 'We're going to do this' and set the field like they set. They barely had anyone in front of the wicket. They had really cagey fields, catchers in good places, they were trying to take wickets all the time, it wasn't negative bowling.
"That's why I didn't play the shot all that much because I felt like they could get me out that way.
"It was a good contest. I had a bit of a contest with Jofra in the Ashes but he wasn't as accurate as Wagner, and Wagner's left arm was coming at funny angles to our guys.
"Hats off to him, he bowled unbelievably well."
World No.1 ranked India possess a deeper range of bowling options, with Jasprit Bumrah the best of a number of pacey quicks. Their spinners too will undoubtedly pose more of a threat than New Zealand's did last summer.
Wade understands that well, having gone on unsuccessful tours to India in 2013 and 2017 in his first coming as an international cricketer when he was still wicketkeeping.
And while Australia's top-order is far more settled than it was in '18-19, Wade expects Kohli's side to be the toughest challenge this current outfit has had to contend with.
"Everyone, although they might not admit it, is looking towards that Indian series," said Wade, who also hopes to win selection on Australia's proposed upcoming limited-overs tour of England.
"It's going to be hard work. They (India) are a fierce team. They're as hard a team as I've ever played in terms of the way they compete.
"Led by Virat, you can see the way he goes about it on the field, you can see what it means to him and he drives all those guys, they jump on the back of him.
"It's going to be as big a challenge as this team has faced for the 12 months we've been together."