Neil Wagner set to return leaving New Zealand a tough selection call

Neil Wagner roars in celebration after dismissing Steve Smith © Associated Press

Neil Wagner is almost certain to be back in New Zealand’s bowling attack for the second Test against India, which begins in Christchurch on Saturday. Wagner missed the first Test in Wellington on paternity leave, but he will return to the squad on Wednesday, replacing Matt Henry.

The debut performance of Kyle Jamieson, who stood in for Wagner in Wellington and shone with both ball and bat, has left New Zealand in a bit of a dilemma over who to play and who to leave out in Christchurch, but coach Gary Stead indicated Wagner would feature.

“Yeah, that’s always good selection dilemmas to have,” Stead said on Tuesday. “Neil Wagner will come back and he’s been a force in our team for a long time, and obviously Kyle Jamieson made the most of his debut, and the way he played, I thought, was outstanding as well, did a really good job for us.”

Then Stead was asked if there was any thought to continuing with Jamieson and giving Wagner more time to spend with his wife and baby daughter.

“You always think about those things, but I think Neil Wagner, it was pretty hard missing one Test let alone two Tests, so no, he’ll be back with us without a doubt.”

Hagley Oval is a venue that has traditionally favoured seam bowlers, so there is a chance New Zealand might go in with both Wagner and Jamieson in a four-man pace attack alongside the new-ball pair of Trent Boult and Tim Southee.

“I think we always consider those things,” Stead said. “We’ll go down there, look at the wicket, we’re still three or four days out at this stage, so don’t want to make any assumptions before we get down there, but generally the wicket we play on at Hagley has a wee bit in it as well.

“We’ve seen in the past, guys like Colin de Grandhomme can be very very useful in those conditions as well – think back to his debut against Pakistan, then it was useful conditions for him – but whoever we go with, we know we need to put in a performance like we did in this game, because, as I said, India will get better.”

Another factor that could make New Zealand think of four quicks was the limited role played by the left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel in Wellington, where he bowled only six overs across India’s two innings. But Stead said Patel may have played a bigger role if the match – New Zealand wrapped up their 10-wicket win inside the first session of day four – had stretched on for longer.

“You look at it, and again, if the Test went the full distance, or even deep into the fourth day, you’d think that Ajaz would have taken a much bigger part than what he did, but it wasn’t to be because our seam bowlers were so good in this Test match, and again, that’s a really pleasing thing.”

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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