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New Zealand v Australia 2024

Tim Southee refuses to rule out sensational Neil Wagner retirement u-turn for second Australia Test

Neil Wagner retirement u-turn possibility
by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

New Zealand captain Tim Southee has refused to rule out the possibility of Neil Wagner coming out of retirement for the second Test against Australia in Christchurch.

New Zealand were handed a heavy defeat by their Trans-Tasman rivals in the first match of the two-Test series in Wellington, losing by 172 runs. Along with the defeat, they suffered the added blow of Will O’Rourke getting injured.

The young fast bowler suffered a hamstring injury which forced him to walk off the field mid-over on the third day of the first Test. He didn’t return to bowl in the second innings, but did come out to bat on day four.

The second Test starts on March 8, but New Zealand don’t have another seamer in their squad to pick from in case O’Rourke doesn’t turn up fit.

Neil Wagner, who was told that wouldn’t be in the first-choice XI for these two Tests, announced an emotional retirement days before the first game. But now that New Zealand might be a seamer short for the second game, Southee was asked whether there’s a possibility for Wagner’s return, to which he didn’t give a negative response.

“We haven’t had a lot of discussions as yet,” Southee said. “We’ll see how Will scrubs up. The physio hasn’t sort of put a time frame on it or how bad it is. We’ll just wait and see how Will goes over the next couple of days. I’m sure there’ll be an update in the next 24 hours.

“We obviously have to go on and make a decision on who comes in and what role we sort of see that playing out in Christchurch. [Wagner’s] had a great reception here over the last week where he got a couple of moments on the field and obviously he’s been a fan favourite for a long time.”

Wagner turned down the chance to be included in the squad for the first Test of the Australia series, but acted as a sub-fielder and ran drinks during the game.

Southee did rule out the possibility of Trent Boult’s return. “I don’t think his loading is up to it on the back of T20,” Southee said. Boult last played a Test in June 2022 against England, but has been absent since turning down a central contract.

Wagner has a strong record against Australia, having taken 24 wickets from four Tests against them at an average of 23.04. The only teams he averages better against in Test cricket are Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Australia captain Pat Cummins said it would be “good to see” Wagner playing a farewell Test. “I mean, why not?” he said. “If he’s your next best bowler that you think is going to perform, then go for it. I’ve faced him before. It’d be good to see. He’s high energy. It’s been good fun chatting to him each morning out here, so see how he goes.”

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