The Boxing Day Test match in Mount Maunganui had plenty of drama. Pakistan showed character as they took the match to the final day before losing their last wicket with just 4.3 overs to go. New Zealand kept the pressure even as the pitch flattened out as captain Kane Williamson gave his bowlers 4 sessions to bowl Pakistan out with an early declaration.
Fawad Alam completed a remarkable comeback story with a 4th-innings hundred. However, it was Neil Wagner’s courage that stole the show in the 1st Test of the 2-match series. The left-arm pacer braved 2 broken toes and inspired his team to a memorable victory that would take Williamson’s side to the top of the ICC Test rankings. Wagner was hit by a Shaheen Afridi yorker on Sunday but he overcame the injury to bowl in both the innings for New Zealand.
Neil Wagner bowled with the broken toes on Tuesday and came back to bowl on Wednesday. The left-arm pacer, as usual, gave it his all but this time, taking pain killers. Wagner finished with 2 wickets and bowled 28 overs, the most among the 6 bowlers used by Kane Williamson in the final innings of the Test.
Speaking to the press after New Zealand’s victory, Kane Williamson was all praise for Neil Wagner, saying he hasn’t seen a bigger effort than Wagner’s in the 1st Test.
“People talk about the size of his heart in terms of what he does on the cricket field, but to have a couple of broken toes, and he was in a lot of pain. He was going off and getting injections and numbing his foot. We tried to use him when the injection was taking effect. It was kind of unique for all of us,” Kane Williamson said.
“His appetite and motivation to be out there and try and make a difference for the team are huge. I think we haven’t seen any bigger than the effort he put in across this Test match with a couple of broken toes.
“He just kept running in, and obviously it had an impact on his ability to operate at 100% but he still came in and got the breakthrough like he does for us so often when he’s at full strength. A very, very special effort from Wags, one that the team appreciated. We needed him out there, and he delivered.”
Pakistan batted 123.3 overs in the final innings but they managed only 271, falling short of the target by 101 runs. Fawad Alam and Mohammad Rizwan led Pakistan’s fight with a 165-run stand for the 5th wicket. Wagner got the big wicket of Alam after the left-hander got to his hundred to set Pakistan back.
Wagner had said on Tuesday that he would continue to bowl and try and deliver for his team unless he was ‘carried on a stretcher’. The New Zealand pacer walked the talk and braved the injury to play a big role in their memorable win.