‘Not easy to step away’: Emotional Wagner retires from international cricket

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New Zealand pace bowler Neil Wagner fought back tears as he announced his retirement from international cricket.

The left-arm seamer, 37, made the decision after being told he would not be in the starting XI for the upcoming Test series against Australia.

Wagner is the Kiwis’ fifth-highest Test wicket-taker, with 260 wickets at an average of 27.57.

“It’s been an emotional week,” said South African-born Wagner, who played 64 Tests and made his debut in 2012.

“It’s not easy to step away from something you’ve given so much to and got so much out of, but it’s now time for others to step up and take this team forward.

Neil Wagner celebrates the wicket of Joe Root (Photo: Getty Images)

“To the New Zealand public and the fans, I can’t thank you enough, for your support, for making me feel welcome, for making me feel like a Kiwi.”

Wagner, who was selected in the squad for the two-match series against Australia, announced his retirement at Wellington’s Basin Reserve before the start of the first Test on Wednesday.

He will be released from the squad before the second Test in Christchurch.

His last match was in the second Test against South Africa earlier this month as the Black Caps won by seven wickets for a 2-0 series win.

Born in Pretoria, Wagner was 12th man for South Africa in two Tests before emigrating to New Zealand in 2008 and after completing a four-year eligibility period he made his international debut.

He was a key member of the team that reached number one in the world and won the inaugural World Test Championship in 2021.

Among career highlights were his roles in famous victories over England in 2018 and last year’s one-run win over the same opposition in Wellington.

His strike rate of 52.7 means only Sir Richard Hadlee (50.8) has a better rate among New Zealanders to have taken more than 100 Test wickets.

“Neil’s numbers are phenomenal, but I don’t think we can underestimate his contributions to the team when the chips were down and he found a way to create a wicket,” said New Zealand coach Gary Stead.

“His accuracy, execution and tenacity has been instrumental in many of our great Test victories and he will always be remembered for his lion-hearted nature.”

Test captain Tim Southee added: “You always knew what you were going to get with Neil and that was 100% commitment to the cause.”

Wagner will continue to play First-Class cricket both home and overseas. (BBC)

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