WATCH | Wagner set for Essex return

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Neil Wagner is set for his Essex return on Thursday for the trip to Radlett in the Royal London One-Day Cup opener against Middlesex. Wagner makes his first appearance since New Zealand took on England in Christchurch and is hoping the team can recreate the performances from 2017. 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.”

Wagner spoke to Essex Cricket TV ahead his first game on 2018 and is looking forward to picking up from where he left off.

The New Zealand Test quick replaces Peter Siddle and has been around while Siddle has made performed admirably in Essex colours. He 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.

“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. Hopefully I can follow in his footsteps. I’ve got to spend some time with him around Chelmsford and that’s been pretty cool. I know he’s going to hang around a bit, so I hope I can continue to pick his brains.”

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