Neil Wagner hopeful of Test recall at Basin Reserve
A year ago, Neil Wagner registered the best figures of his career at Basin Reserve. © Getty Images

The left-arm quick Neil Wagner is geared up to slot back into New Zealand’s XI for the first Test against Sri Lanka at Basin Reserve this week, the scene of his greatest performance for the country.

Against West Indies a little over a year ago, Wagner claimed career-best innings figures of 7/39  and a match haul of 9/141 as New Zealand triumphed by an innings and 67 runs at Basin Reserve. On another green-tinged track for the opening Test versus Sri Lanka, the 32-year-old is hopeful of featuring after sitting out the recent Abu Dhabi Test against Pakistan.

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“On the eye, it always looks like it’s going to do a hell of a lot more than what it sometimes does. The Basin is renowned as a ground that is hard to take 20 wickets on. It’s not always easy. It can be a grafting ground,” Wagner told reports in Wellington on Wednesday.

“It feels like everything has been a big blur since that day [versus West Indies in 2017] till now. It seems like the season and the year has gone really quick. It feels like I’ve been continuously playing. Once you go through a series, you just put your head back down. You don’t want to get on too much of a high or too much of a low, it’s just keep focusing on improving as a cricketer and improving your skills to be as consistent as you can.”

Wagner was a leading figure for New Zealand on day four of the first Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi last month, as he bowled 13 successive overs either side of the lunch break for the wickets of Asad Shafiq and Yasir Shah, which head coach Gary Stead termed as “phenomenal” in New Zealand’s unbelievable four-win win.

He played the second Test, which Pakistan won, and was benched for the decider in Abu Dhabi with the management opting for Tim Southee who claimed three wickets on the final day as New Zealand won by 123 runs.

“It was pretty awesome to be honest, a surreal sort of feeling. Quite a massive achievement for us as a group,” said Wagner of the 2-1 series win, New Zealand’s first away against Pakistan since 1969. “It’s one of those things, you always want to play and be part of the squad and contribute as much as you can, but you still have to play a part off the field. That’s part of our culture and the group we’ve got.”