Wagner fires up for WACA contest
Like his German composer namesake, Neil Wagner does not mind a hint of the dramatic. Where New Zealand have gained a reputation for even temper and a lack of on field histrionics, Wagner's Afrikaner blood gets up at times, as shown by an on-field posture that can look more Dale Steyn than Tim Southee.
Given New Zealand's poorly display in Brisbane, where they were bullied by an Australia side as aggressive in deed as they are infamous for being in word, Wagner's occasionally fiery countenance may be a useful tonic for Brendon McCullum's side as they seek to fight their way out of the hole they find themselves in.
Wagner certainly likes the look of the WACA, a place at which he has never bowled but can vividly recall the exploits of many a fast bowler at the ground. Plans to shift major international matches to the Burswood Stadium and a drop-in pitch mean all pacemen are running out of chances.
"I'd love to play Australia, I'd love to get that chance," Wagner said. "I had a training session yesterday at the Melville club and they told me it was the last two Tests at the WACA or something like that because they're talking about a different ground. That's a bit of a shame because it's quite a nice ground, I loved watching it growing up, a lot of history over there and I'd love to play there. It's pretty awesome, a very special place for fast bowlers.
"Just watching cricket here over the years, I think overseas teams have come here and bowled a bit too short. They get carried away with the bounce and the pace sometimes. Sometimes you've got to bowl a touch fuller length, sort of top of the stumps. For us I think the thing is to not get carried away with it. Hit consistent areas and ask good questions for longer periods of time and things will happen."
Even though Southee bowled soundly in the morning at nets to prove his fitness after suffering from an irritated disc in his back at the Gabba, Wagner is still a chance to play. The New Zealand coach Mike Hesson has forecast a five-man bowling attack for the WACA Ground with the spinner Mark Craig batting at No. 7, meaning the pace options for McCullum will be many and varied. New Zealand are also sustained by the knowledge they are chronically slow starters to Test series, but invariably improve as they go on.
"As a bowling unit we've always complemented each other quite well over past times and our success over the past two years or so is we've bowled in partnerships and other guys have stepped up too," Wagner said. "I think that has made Tim and Trent bowl really well in the past. It was just a little bit inconsistency and a bit of a tough start.
"We have had that in the past as well, our first Test we haven't always started that well and we've picked it up as the series has gone on. Lucky for us it's a three-match series, there's a lot more cricket left to be played and hopefully we can set it back from ball one in this next Test.
"Overall the team will be better for that hit [in Brisbane], being out in the heat and humidity and bouncy wickets, just adapting to everything, it's now for us to go out and set it right in the second Test from day one."
One man Wagner may be asked to confront should he get the nod to play, is David Warner, the dominant batting force of the Gabba Test and now one of only three batsman ever to have thrice scored a hundred in each innings of a Test match. That sort of scoring can force opposition teams to re-think their strategies, but Wagner said it was simply a matter of being tighter for longer.
"I think we still stick to our guns and our plans. If we execute it better for longer periods of time, I'm sure we'll get more rewards," he said. "I think our attack is up there with the best in the world. When Tim, Trent and Dougy and the rest of them all get it right - they're pretty good bowlers. If we can be more consistent for long periods of time, we'll definitely show that. The boys are up for the task and the challenge in this Test."
Richard Wagner's operatic Ring Cycle is a 15-hour affair. Success for Wagner and New Zealand this week will require a similarly sustained effort.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig