File photo of NZ pacer Neil Wagner running past England batsman Matt Prior. (Getty Images)
Leeds: New Zealand's Neil Wagner said on Wednesday he wanted to make England batsmen "hate him" and "get in their face" as the Black Caps look to square the Test series with victory at Headingley.
England won the first Test of this two-match campaign with a commanding 170-run success, achieved with more than a day to spare, at Lord's last week after skittling New Zealand out for a mere 68 in their second innings. But that margin of victory could not disguise two modest efforts with the bat by England, who twice struggled to get past 200 at Lord's.
Now South Africa-born left-arm seamer Wagner is keen to remind the likes of England batsmen Nick Compton and Jonny Bairstow of their modest returns at 'the home of cricket'. "I like to look for little battles, to create something," Wagner told reporters after a New Zealand net session at Headingley on Wednesday. "I think it's about getting into a guy's face. It's about irritating them, make them really angry, make them look at you and think 'I really do want to hit this guy for four'.
"You have just got to get them to the point where they really hate you. When you get to that point, you sometimes make them think about something else - a split second of concentration lapse that could give you a wicket.
"Bairstow does have a bit of that [pressure] at the moment. Compton is looking to find his feet a bit and he played a rash shot in the first innings out of nowhere, just tried to run down the wicket and charge one. We can obviously thrive on that and try to put a bit of pressure on."
Wagner insisted even Joe Root, seemingly unflappable even at the age of 22 and now set to play his first Test on his Yorkshire home ground on Friday after a composed 71 at Lord's, was fair game for some 'verbals'.
"Joe Root looks like he's got a good head on his shoulders; I don't think he'll struggle too much with it, but as a bowling unit we'll definitely have a couple of words and try to get underneath his skin a bit," Wagner said. "Some players thrive on something like that, other players tend to be more nervous. There's a fine line."
Wagner, due to play in his eighth Test on Friday, will be especially keen to take the wicket of Jonathan Trott at Headingley, having known the England top-order batsman from their days together in South African cricket. "It is a mind battle and a personal thing but I know Trotty and the way he is; he would hate to get out to me."
But even the 27-year-old Wagner, who only made his Test debut for his adopted country against the West Indies last year, accepted there were some batsmen, such as England captain Alastair Cook, where 'conversation' was best avoided. "Cooky is just one of those guys that the more you try and talk to him the better he is going to play."
Meanwhile England batsman Ian Bell's politeness has sometimes disarmed Wagner - but not for long, according to the bowler. "I have a lot of respect for Ian Bell and he always gives you a little bit of a nod when you give him a good one or always happy to tell you 'well bowled'. You can't help but give him a bit of a smile. When he hits you for four, he is just one of those guys who you nod back and say 'well played'.
"He's not really a guy who you can get stuck into but I have had a couple of occasions when he has driven me through covers a couple of times and a pull shot for four - then you do give him a little bit of a stare or glare.
"I want a battle."