Neil Wagner ready for challenge of replacing Peter Siddle at Essex

Neil Wagner has returned to Essex for a third spell. Picture: ARCHANT

Neil Wagner has returned to Essex for a third spell. Picture: ARCHANT

Neil Wagner knows he has big boots to fill as he starts his third spell as Essex’s overseas bowler, writes Martin Smith.

The New Zealand Test quick has seen at first-hand the impact the Australian Peter Siddle had made in his short, four-match stint in Chelmsford.

Siddle returns down under with 20 Specsavers County Championship wickets to his name at an impressive cost of 16.10 runs each.

Wagner has been around while Siddle has taken 15 of those wickets in the last two games, and said: “Just watching him run in the other day it looked as if he was playing in a Test match.

“He’s shown the skills and ability he’s got in the last few weeks to make the ball talk and move around.

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“I’ve always known he’s a huge competitor. A bit like me, he’s a real aggressive man and gives his all. He’s a top man and brings a lot to the team. He has fitted amazingly into the group and everyone has loved having him around. It’s almost a pity that he’s got to leave.

“So big boots for me to fill.”

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Wagner has signed initially on a three-month contract to the end of July, which will take in three midsummer Championship games, the entire Royal London Cup campaign and half the Vitality T20 Blast fixtures.

He did not need much persuading to return to The Cloudfm County Ground where his 31 Championship wickets in two spells were integral in Essex’s title success. “It’s nice to be back,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time here last year and I’m looking forward to getting amongst the lads, seeing some mates, and hopefully playing some good cricket.”

Wagner makes his first appearance when Essex open their Royal London Cup season tomorrow against Middlesex at Radlett. The Pretoria-born seamer played his part last year as Essex reached the semi-final of the 50-over competition before losing to Nottinghamshire in a match of 743 runs and the largest successful domestic run-chase in history.

“That would have been a helluva final,” Wagner said. “But we had a lot of positives to take from it and hopefully we can start off well and continue doing the things we did well then.”

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