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Mohammad Isam in Mirpur
October 22, 2013
The last time Neil Wagner played a match in Bangladesh was also the last time he played for his native South Africa at any level. That knowledge of conditions and pitches, albeit more than five years old, played a part in his maiden five-wicket haul during the second Test between Bangladesh and New Zealand.
"Of course I remember that tour," Wagner said. "I remember the fields, the wickets and the players. Nasir [Hossain] and Mushfiqur [Rahim] were playing in that series too, it was my first subcontinent experience and was a learning experience that helped this time, definitely."
Wagner opened the bowling for South Africa Academy when he came to Bangladesh for a four-week tour in 2008. He took four wickets in two four-day matches and two more in a one-day tri-series also involving the Pakistan academy. A few weeks later, he played in the Liverpool league before heading to New Zealand to play in the State Championship the following season. He cut off his South African connections and four years later in July 2012, made his Test debut for New Zealand in the West Indies.
This was his best bowling performance for New Zealand since his debut and while the five-for made him happy, Wagner was cautious about whether it could help him seal a permanent place in the side. Nonetheless, when Rubel Hossain nicked to the keeper to become Wagner's fifth wicket, it was just reward for the best bowler on show.
"It is tough work out there. You have to keep running in, keep fighting. It is pretty slow but I enjoy bowling on a wicket like that," Wagner said. "You have to make sure you don't leak too much runs. Dougie [Bracewell] and Trent [Boult] started off well. They created the pressure for me to take the wickets."
Wagner's first four wickets were decisive to New Zealand's progress in the game. When he removed Marshall Ayub in the first morning, it ended a strong second-wicket partnership that promised more than its final yield of 67 runs.
Tamim Iqbal and Marshall were dominating the bowlers, forcing Brendon McCullum into thinking about containment before lunch on the first day. But Wagner drew Marshall forward, created a gap between his bat and pad, and got one to swing back onto the stumps. Wagner provided another crucial strike, removing Tamim for 95, to offset the balance in New Zealand's favour. His dismissals of Mushfiqur and Sohag Gazi early on the second day prevented any fightback from the home side.
Wagner didn't play the Chittagong Test with New Zealand opting for the extra spinner, and he wanted to produce a good account of himself this time around. "I want to put my hand up and make most of every opportunity I get. I think for me personally it was tough to miss out on the first Test but it is one of those things."
He brought a bit of aggression to the proceedings, which would be needed once again in the second innings on a pitch that is likely to deteriorate further. But he likes a bit of a scrap, and that is exactly what could happen if the next three days have no more rain.
"When you get another chance, you have to grab it with both hands. I have to put my head down and try to do this again. There's always a couple of plans in place [when I bowl]. At the end of the day if the plan comes off it is a pretty good thing."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Mohammad Isam
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