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England Tests not warm-ups for WTC final: Neil Wagner

Auckland: New Zealand fast bowler Neil Wagner on Monday said that his team is not going to treat the two upcoming Tests against England as warm-ups for the World Test Championship final against India.

New Zealand will play two Tests from June 2 and then take on India in the WTC final from June 18 – just three days after the second Test.

A majority of New Zealand’s Test contingent arrived in England on Sunday and Wagner was part of the second batch of players to leave Auckland on Monday.

“We’re not going to treat these two Test matches against England just as warm-ups [for the WTC final],” Wagner told reporters at the Auckland airport before leaving for the UK.

“I know for a fact we’re going to get out there and pride ourselves the way we’ve been playing Test cricket and we want to win Test matches for New Zealand,” he added.

Wagner, the No 3-ranked bowler in the ICC Test rankings, has experience of playing in England – having featured for Lancashire in the County Championship and was also part of the side that toured in 2013.

The pacer acknowledged that practicing with the Duke Ball has been ‘quite beneficial’.

“It’s been quite nice, it’s obviously got different characteristics to the Kookaburra. The way we’ve been training for the last while is something we didn’t always have in the past, having the facilities and having a marquee up and getting a number of training (sessions) in before going to England.

On tours, in the past, you rock up there and you’ve only got a couple of training (sessions) and maybe one head out with the Dukes ball before the first Test and with that you can find yourself a little bit behind,’ he pointed out.

“But having had those little bit of trainings leading into it has been quite beneficial, just because it’s a little bit different, and obviously adapting to it. It’s been really good preparation and everybody is excited bowling with it.

Sometimes you have to control all that because there’s a high expectation of the ball doing a lot and moving around but sometimes you can get there and it can be quite flat and slow as well. The nice thing about it is we’ve got a wealth of experience and the guys have been there before so we can feed off each other and bounce ideas off each other as well,” he added.

Wagner would be expected to step up against England in the absence of the experienced Trent Boult, who has stayed back in New Zealand to be with his family and could miss both the England Tests before being available for the WTC final starting June 18 in Southampton.

The pacer conceded that he’s banking on his past experience to do well in England.

“The nice thing is that the nerves and the unknowns are away, I’ve played at Lord’s couple of times now. I’ve played one Test there in 2013 and a couple of county games too, so it’s nice to get there when things feel familiar,’ he said.

‘Sometimes you can get there and get a little but starstruck with the whole experience and everything because you grow up as a kid wanting to be there and all those sort of things. Having been there and played on those grounds, we’ve been around those conditions so it’s nice to go there and hit the ground running, knowing what to expect,’ he added.

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