Cricket: No Blackcaps SOS to Neil Wagner for must-win test against Australia in Christchurch

There was no thought of one last S.O.S. to Neil Wagner from the Blackcaps, who now face a must-win second test against Australia in Christchurch.  

To rub salt into Kiwi wounds from last week's 172-run defeat to Australia at the Basin Reserve, the Blackcaps have lost fast bowler Will O'Rourke to a hamstring injury for the series finale at Hagley Oval.  

As a result, Wellington's Ben Sears has been handed his first test call-up, and is available to make his debut as early as Thursday.

Neil Wagner celebrates.
Neil Wagner celebrates. Photo credit: Photosport

His selection came at the expense of 37-year-old Wagner, who called time on his career before the first test.  

As a fan favourite, and a key part of the side that won the inaugural World Test Championship in 2021, Wagner's place among the greats of New Zealand cricket cannot be understated.  

In 64 tests, he claimed 260 wickets at an average of 27.57, and a strike rate of 52.7 - behind only Sir Richard Hadlee.  

Among active players, only captain Tim Southee (378 wickets) has been more successful with the ball, while Trent Boult (317 wickets) remains unavailable.  

But despite the loss of O'Rourke as well as Kyle Jamieson to injury over the summer, there was no thought of giving Wagner one final test before he calls time on his international career.

And with the Blackcaps needing victory in Christchurch to preserve an unbeaten home record that dates back to 2017, talent will have to trump inexperience in the bowling stocks. 

"We reconsidered a number of things," said coach Gary Stead. "But we thought in this case, the pace of Ben Sears and what he's brought to us in international cricket so far is the difference we needed.

Neil Wagner and Tim Southee.
Neil Wagner and Tim Southee. Photo credit: Photosport

"It's Neil's decision to retire at the end of the day, we supported him through that time as well.  

"At some stage players' careers do come to an end, and it's tough for them.  

"The way he's managed himself and said it's time to shine that light on someone else is very admirable."  

Instead, Southee, Sears, Matt Henry and Scott Kuggeleijjn will make up New Zealand's pace department for Christchurch, while Mitchell Santner, Glenn Phillips and Rachin Ravindra provide spin options.  

Before the series opener, Wagner announced he would retire after the two tests against Australia, and bring to an end an international career that began in 2012.  

But given Wagner was confirmed to have missed selection in Wellington, and released in Christchurch, his last test appearance came in last month's seven-wicket win over South Africa.  

And as the team prepares to depart Wellington to head south, the Blackcaps have taken the time to recognise Wagner's contribution to the team for the last time.   

"Neil had a fitting send-off, last night with the team," said Stead. "They celebrated everything he's done.

"Neil was happy with the decision of where he's got to around that as well.  

"For us, it was about making sure we had that celebration to say 'well done, Neil. You've been brilliant, you've got the best out of yourself'.  

"It was nice to have him and his family around yesterday to celebrate that."