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Wagner's last opera: NZ veteran to call it quits after Australia series

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27th February, 2024
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New Zealand veteran Neil Wagner will retire from international cricket after their two-Test series against Australia.

The 37-year old was overlooked for the XI for the first Test in Wellington, with the Black Caps ushering in a new generation of fast bowling talent, and will now be released from the squad for the second Test in Christchurch.

Barring a late recall, Wagner will finish with 260 Test wickets from 64 matches, the fifth-most in New Zealand’s history, with a strike rate of 52 – only bettered by cricket icon Sir Richard Hadlee in the Black Caps’ 100-wicket club.

The popular paceman, who rose from South African domestic cricket journeyman to become one of New Zealand’s greatest ever bowlers, has been a staple of the Black Caps’ side for a decade as a bowling enforcer in possibly the nation’s best ever Test team.

“It’s been an emotional week,” Wagner said in an emotional press conference on Tuesday in which he announced his retirement.

“It’s not easy to step away from something you’ve given so much to and got so much out of, but it’s now time for others to step up and take this team forward.

“I’ve enjoyed every single moment of playing Test cricket for the Black Caps and am proud of everything we’ve been able to achieve as a team.

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WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 28: Neil Wagner of New Zealand celebrates his wicket of Ollie Pope of England during day five of the Second Test Match between New Zealand and England at Basin Reserve on February 28, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Neil Wagner has announced his retirement from Test cricket. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

“The friendships and bonds built over my career are what I’ll cherish the most and I want to thank everyone who’s played a part in where I am today.

“My teammates have always meant the world to me and all I’ve ever wanted to do was what was best for the team – I hope that’s the legacy I will leave.

“I’d like to thank my wife Lana for her support in helping me be the man I am today and for helping bring our two little girls Olivia and Zahli, and our boy Josh into the world.

“I’m looking forward to one final week in camp and will be doing everything I can to help prepare and support the boys.”

Chief among Wagner’s career highlights is his role in New Zealand’s 2021 World Test Championship victory, as well as their becoming the No.1 Test team in the ICC rankings.

The heart and soul of a star-studded Black Caps’ bowling line-up alongside fellow greats Tim Southee and Trent Boult, his incredible fitness and ferocious work ethic enabled him to bowl long spells of primarily short-ball assaults to trouble many of the world’s best batters.

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Perhaps his finest individual performance came during the ill-fated tour of Australia in 2019/20 – with the Black Caps soundly beaten 3-0, Wagner claimed 17 wickets at 22.76 to win hearts on both sides of the Tasman, as well as prove Steve Smith’s kryptonite throughout the series.

An earlier performance against Australia during their tour of New Zealand in 2016 sums up his unmatched toughness, taking 6/106 in Christchurch despite a broken knuckle on the ring finger of his bowling hand.

Born in Pretoria, Wagner emigrated to New Zealand having struggled to break into South African first-class cricket due to the country’s quota system.

After a four-year qualification period, he made his Test debut in 2012, helping transform the Black Caps from international batters to one of world cricket’s most admired teams.

New Zealand captain Tim Southeee had nothing but praise for Wagner’s career, saying he would do ‘anything for the team’.

“You always knew what you were going to get with Neil and that was 100% commitment to the cause,” he said.

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“He would do anything for the team and has earned nothing but respect and admiration within the dressing room.

“Personally, I’ve enjoyed a great relationship with Neil on and off the field and am sure our friendship will continue for years to come.

“It’s going to be great to have him with us this week for the first Test and we’ll look forward to celebrating his incredible career at the end of the match.”

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