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Wagner retires on eve of New Zealand's series against Australia
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Danny Ryan
South Africa-born Neil Wagner took 260 Test wickets for New Zealand
South Africa-born Neil Wagner took 260 Test wickets for New Zealand

New Zealand pacer Neil Wagner has announced his retirement from international cricket just prior to the two-match Test series against Australia.

Wagner, 37, was part of the Black Caps' 14-man squad but after not being selected in captain Tim Southee's XI, he has opted to call time on his career before tomorrow's opener in Wellington.

He will be released from the squad ahead of the second match in Christchurch starting on March 8.

The veteran fast bowler, famed for his relentless short-pitch spells, claimed 260 wickets across his 64 Test matches at an impressive average of 27.57.

A tearful Wagner said at a pre-match news conference: "It's been an emotional week.

"It's not easy to step away from something you've given so much to and got so much out of but it's now time for others to step up and take this team forward.

"To the New Zealand public and the fans, I can't thank you enough, for your support, for making me feel welcome, for making me feel like a Kiwi."

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Steve's challenge

Australia go into the series without legendary opening batter David Warner following his own retirement from the Test arena, with Steve Smith partnering Usman Khawaja at the top of the order.

Khawaja, the reigning ICC Test Player of the Year, knows seamer-friendly conditions at Basin Reserve will be tough for the new-look duo but backs Smith to add more runs to his current tally of 9,634.

He said: "You're facing the best bowlers every single time with the new ball, sometimes the freshest wickets if you go out there first innings.

"So the challenge is always there, there's no easy runs to be had, it's just hard.

"That's what I miss about batting four or five sometimes but it's one of those things where I think Steven Smith is as capable a batsman as anyone in the world.

"He's right up there as the best Test cricketer of this generation so if anyone's going to score runs at opening, it's Steve.

"There's no doubt, you can bat him anywhere and he'll score runs, it's as simple as that."

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