Matt Henry might have been the standout bowling star for New Zealand, with Tim Southee a not-too-distant second, in their record innings-and-276-run win over South Africa in the first Test, but Pretoria-born Neil Wagner had a major role too, with three wickets and an important contribution of 49. Now, as New Zealand enter the second and final Test looking for their first Test series win over the Proteas, Wagner has crystal clarity that “we really want to beat them in the series”, it won’t be “different to any of the other ones” New Zealand have won in their highly successful recent years.
New Zealand have been arguably the best team in Test Cricket recently, with India being better in numbers. In the 2019-2021 World Test Championship, they emerged victorious in 8 out of their 12 games, including the final against India, to take home the inaugural crown. The new cycle wasn’t the smoothest of starts for them, as they lost 1-0 in India and then drew 1-1 at home against Bangladesh, but they are back on track against South Africa, as the pace quartet of Southee, Wagner, Henry and Kyle Jamieson bowled out the opposition for 95 and 111 in the first Test.
Our efforts remain the same no matter who we play – Wagner
“They are a quality team, and we really want to, obviously, beat them in the series. They have always been a quality unit,” Wagner said three days off from the start of the second Test, also in Christchurch. “People ask me that question, obviously, because I was born there. But I’ve been living here for 14 years now, so it’s something I don’t think about too much, or it doesn’t really feel that way. I probably only really know two or three guys in that team anyway. So it’s a lot different to what it was when I started my career personally.
“But to beat any team… we’ve achieved a couple of things throughout the years now, beating England for the first time in I don’t know how many years. [It’s] the same no matter who you play, we saw that a couple of months ago when we played against Bangladesh, how they played in our conditions.
“It was a strong performance [in the first Test], it was really good, obviously everyone chipped in, and in all facets, and Matt Henry obviously being absolutely outstanding for us. Yeah, pretty pleasing Test match for us, but it’s something in the past now, got to put this behind us quite quickly and move forward to Friday, because South Africa is a quality team and will come back firing. So we also want to be on top of our game and keep improving as we go forward.”