Neil Wagner is a perfect against Steve Smith this series. Picture: Michael Klein
Neil Wagner is a perfect against Steve Smith this series. Picture: Michael Klein

How Wagner planned to skin his bunny Smith

THE similarities between the Bodyline attacks on Bradman and Steve Smith are only getting stronger, with New Zealand bounty hunter Neil Wagner revealing his assault on the world's best batsman has been four years in the making.

England's infamous Bodyline take-down of Sir Donald Bradman back in 1932 was born out of what their ruthless captain Douglas Jardine had seen from the mater's game in the previous Ashes tour of 1928 where he had dominated.

Australian captain Tim Paine immediately likened Wagner's suffocating tactics to Smith as reminiscent of Bodyline, and now the Kiwi spearhead has admitted the strategy behind his short-pitched bombardment this summer started way back in February 2016, when the Australian run-machine smashed a series-winning century against the Black Caps in Christchurch.

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New Zealand are getting trounced on the scoreboard, but Wagner is in the midst of executing a career-defining series having dismissed the man who was an unmovable object during the recent Ashes series in all four innings so far this summer.

The calculation and scope behind the master plan adds another layer to Wagner's success being anything but a fluke.

If Wagner strikes again at the SCG on Friday it will go down as one of the most memorable one-on-one dominations in recent memory by a bowler of a star batsman.

Wagner said he is relishing the prospect of leaving Australia with a perfect set of six against Smith.

"I do. I like bowling against the best batters in the world," said Wagner.

Neil Wagner celebrates snaring Steve Smith at the MCG. Picture: AAP/Michael Dodge
Neil Wagner celebrates snaring Steve Smith at the MCG. Picture: AAP/Michael Dodge

"If you're bowling to the best batsmen in the world, you want to challenge yourself against them.

"It's never easy bowling to them. They're quality for a reason and you want to get them out.

"I've always watched Steve. I admire him as a player, he's a quality performer.

"He's a freak to be honest.

"He's just such a good batsman and there's a reason why he is right up there as one of the world's best and his numbers speak for themselves

"The game in Christchurch a few years ago, he scored a lot of runs against us and hurt us. He took that game away from us then.

"That plan sort of started back then and it was something in the mind coming over here too, to try and dry him up and see if you can stop him from scoring."

Wagner wants to take Smith's number again in Sydney, and says the Kiwis are hungry to make sure it actually counts for something.

Steve Smith gloves a Wanger short ball to gully. Picture: Michael Klein
Steve Smith gloves a Wanger short ball to gully. Picture: Michael Klein

The right-armer insists New Zealand aren't demolarised after their capitulations in Perth and Melbourne.

"To get a guy like that out, gets you in a really good position to hopefully get into a strong position in the Test and throw some punches, land some blows - be able to put some pressure on Australia," said Wagner.

"At the moment … every time we seem to put a bit of pressure on him, someone else

has stuck their hand up and made it really tough for us

"Hopefully we can keep putting that pressure on and get those wickets in clumps.

" … We've got the team to do it. We've played some really good cricket in the last few years. Unfortunately we weren't able to show that in the first two Test matches."

News Corp Australia


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