Domain Test Series v New Zealand
Relentless Wagner races to 200 Test wickets
Kiwis paceman earns a slice of history as his toil again lands him the wicket of Australia's superstar batsman
28 December 2019, 05:23 PM AEST
Left-arm quick Neil Wagner has become the second-fastest New Zealander to take 200 Test wickets, behind only Black Caps legend Sir Richard Hadlee.
Wagner fittingly claimed the wicket of Steve Smith to reach the milestone, which comes in his 46th Test (86th innings), putting him in the top 20 fastest worldwide.
Hadlee took his 200th wicket in his 44th Test (81st innings) in August 1983 and no Kiwi has come close to that wickets-per-match rate since, with Wagner's pace-bowling counterparts Trent Boult (52 Tests) and Tim Southee (56 Tests) the next best.
Wagner, who leads the wicket-takers this series with 13, has been highly impressive in Australia, particularly the manner in which he has stuck to a short-pitched plan to Smith and, at different times, other members of the hosts' batting order, notably Matthew Wade.
Against Smith, who averages 71.32 in Australia, that approach has paid serious dividends; the right-hander has scored just 22 runs against Wagner from 116 deliveries (99 dot balls) and lost his wicket four times from four innings this series, each time to a short-pitched ball.
"Obviously Wagner's got a serious tank," said Smith at the end of day one, when he was 77 not out in what is to date his lone half-century of the series.
"He carries on and just keeps on doing it, doesn't he. But at some point, hopefully he's going to get a bit tired."
Smith's optimism must have dipped when Wagner removed him for 84 on day two, and then again for seven on day three. The 33-year-old had bowled 109 overs for the series shortly before stumps on Saturday, his 60 overs in Perth the most by a fast bowler in a Test in Australia in seven years.
His recent form has propelled him to No.3 in the ICC Test bowling rankings while he is equal-third on the list of Test wicket-takers in 2019, with 42 wickets at 17.92.
"He's an absolute machine," said Travis Head after play on day two. "He's been very impressive the way he's been able to go about it – the long spell he bowled in Perth, today he just didn't stop.
"We questioned who was going to bowl after tea and it was no surprise he took his cap off straight away and started up.
"He's an unbelievable athlete and the fields they set, how consistent he is with (bowling to) that … his pace varies and that makes it difficult as well … he's got the effort balls that are on the money and then there are variations with pace in the wicket, then the slower ball as well.
"So he's got some tricks there and he's made it difficult for us over the two games."
Domain Test Series v New Zealand
Australia squad: David Warner, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Travis Head, Tim Paine (c, wk), Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Michael Neser, Mitchell Swepson
New Zealand: Todd Astle, Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, BJ Watling, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson (c)
First Test: Australia won by 296 runs in Perth
Second Test: December 26-30, MCG (Seven, Fox & Kayo)
Third Test: January 3-7, SCG (Seven, Fox & Kayo)