It doesn’t get much better for a bowler than taking six wickets on debut for your new side.
That’s the feat Neil Wagner achieved in the first innings of Lancashire’s County Championship season as he starred in an impressive bowling display at Old Trafford.
In fact, his figures of 6-66 are the best figures by a Lancashire bowler on a First Class debut for Lancashire since Ted McDonald in 1924. An overseas signing looking to make an impact, Wagner and Lancashire couldn’t have asked for much more.
Much has been made in the build up to the new County Championship season about whether Lancashire can make the step up from Division Two to Division One – not least by Head Coach Ashley Giles himself.
That in mind, when Lancashire lost the toss against Nottinghamshire (yes, there was actually a toss!), and were made to field, there probably wouldn’t have been a huge amount of disappointment in the home dressing room at Old Trafford. While they would probably have also batted, if given the choice, bowling is without doubt the stronger suit for the Red Rose and Giles might well have been happy that their bowlers were first to face the top flight examination.
And in that opening session, his bowling unit passed the test with flying colours making a dream start to the new season.
Three wickets each for Kyle Jarvis and Wagner before lunch reduced their more-fancied opponents to 73-4. Anderson was wicketless but economical and, with Luke Procter proving a useful fourth seamer, Giles’ bowling unit were making a statement that they can mix it with the best that Division One has to offer. When you throw arguably England’s best spinner into the mix in Simon Kerrigan, Lancashire certainly aren’t found wanting.
But it was Wagner whose light shone brightest. Any man who has 19 Test caps for New Zealand has obvious quality, but he really underlined his class on his first morning in England’s County Championship. He looked quick, aggressive and swung the ball significantly to pose real problems to the Notts batsmen. One lbw, one bowled, two caught behind, one caught in the deep and one caught at cover highlighted the variety in his attack and the 29-year-old left-armer wasn’t afraid to bowl his fair share of short stuff to push the batsmen back.
Having played in the Liverpool Lancashire league for Ormskirk back in 2008, Wagner has now made his mark on the county once again and expressed his delight at getting the chance to play for the club.
“The team is in a good position, I’m happy, it’s been a good day,” Wagner said. “It’s a decent pitch, we thought it would do a little bit more.
“Big credit to Ash and the team here. It’s a great club and a great place to be at. The way they’ve dealt with everything has been top standard and it makes things easier for me.
“I never had any hesitation about coming here. It’s a great club and a great place and I’ve always had something for Lancashire since playing for Ormskirk.
“I watched lots of games here for Lancashire. I love the ground so for me to come here and play a part for such a special club has been pretty awesome. I’m just lucky to be here.”
Wagner looks like a bowler who will take wickets in any conditions which is possibly the biggest compliment you can pay. He became the first Lancashire bowler to take five wickets on debut since Simon Kerrigan in 2010 and with it showed his potential to become the leader of the Lancashire attack through this Championship season.