Croft praises Wagner impact at Lancashire
Some counties employ so many overseas players that supporters would be forgiven if at the end of the season they could not recall all their names, let alone what they did. Cricketers jet in from one T20 league, turn out for a few games and then fly out to another short-form junket.
Neil Wagner does not fall into this category. Lancashire supporters will remember him and his team-mates will recall his time at Emirates Old Trafford with fondness and appreciation.
Whether racing in to bowl his left-arm fast-medium, striding out to do his best with the bat or simply encouraging others, the New Zealand Test player had made an impact. He has never held anything back or given less than his maximum effort.
He now departs Lancashire to play international cricket for New Zealand and he leaves Emirates Old Trafford with everyone’s best wishes. If they get the chance, Lancashire would rather like to see him round the place again.
‘Neil has been brilliant for us,’ said his captain, Steven Croft. ‘He’s one of those who always wants to bowl, no matter what the pitch situation. Even if it’s slow and flat, he will come in and try his best.
‘We knew what we were getting with him, and he’s not failed with that. He’s literally 110 per cent every game, and he’s been really good for us. He’s not just left-arm, he’s quick and also middle of the pitch when need be.’
Ah yes, the middle of the pitch. It is a curious thing with Wagner that he is as softly-spoken and courteous off the field as he is a ruthless aggressor on it. Maybe the two go together. Either way, he possesses one of the most brutal bouncers seen in English cricket and, when used sparingly, it is a most potent weapon.
This was proved in Wagner’s first appearance for Lancashire when he returned match figures of 11-111 against Nottinghamshire back in April. Only Cecil Parkin has done better on debut and that was before the lights went out in 1914.
Wagner’s spells in that match made a huge contribution towards Lancashire beginning what was always going to be a testing season with an emphatic victory. And now Steven Croft’s team are second in the table.
The New Zealander has done more than his fair share towards ensuring that his team has been competitive. Only his team-mate Kyle Jarvis and Warwickshire’s Keith Barker have taken more than his 32 Championship wickets. He wanted to play in all the matches and he turned up for work even on dismal evening when games were going nowhere and it was cruel cold.
When James Anderson was playing for Lancashire early in the season there was a fair argument that the Red Rose had the best pace attack in the country. If Wagner was not the man taking the wickets, he was the bloke encouraging others to do so. As it is, he leaves with the scalps of Kumar Sangakkara, Adam Lyth, Michael Carberry and Andrew Gale (twice) in his bag.
He seems to have enjoyed himself. He was “Wags” in the Emirates Old Trafford dressing room before he’d changed for his first net. ‘Wags is a really good lad to have around,’ said Croft. ‘It’s a shame we haven’t got him for longer, but I don’t think we can complain too much given he’s playing international cricket.’