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Peter English at the SCG
January 2, 2008
Brad Hogg is the most unfashionable player on Australia's 25-man contract list and admits to under-estimating his own capabilities at times. A 36-year-old employing a bowling style few have persevered with, he has remained in the national consciousness due to his one-day expertise. Now he is a cult hero at the SCG after scoring 79 in an innings-saving stand of 173 with Andrew Symonds.
Australia, who won the toss, were in severe trouble at 6 for 134, but they were dug out of danger by two players who bat on instinct. Hogg performed like he had been in the team for years - it was his sixth Test - and attacked freely while Symonds waited a couple of hours to understand a two-paced pitch before relaxing.
Driving strongly through cover off both feet, Hogg beat Symonds to a half-century before slowing down when reaching three figures became a serious possibility. "It was exciting to be in front of Andrew for a while, but he showed who was boss and got to 100 before I got to 70 and put me back in my place," he said. "It was just exciting to be there."
Stepping back to cut at Anil Kumble, Hogg was caught by Rahul Dravid at slip and as he left the field he was cheered like one of the locals. Michael Clarke and Phil Jaques had failed and the spectators were desperate for someone to adopt. The players in the dressing room were also ecstatic and not just because the score had developed into a comfortable 7 for 307.
"It's fantastic to have a good partnership with my good mate Andrew and to knock a couple of records off," Hogg said of the seventh-wicket stand, which was the highest against India and the largest at the ground. "It's a fantastic feeling to have a good innings for Australia."
Hogg is an ideal team man who has waited four years for another Test chance, which arrived when Stuart MacGill underwent wrist surgery. Until Shane Warne exited a year ago Hogg was closer to retirement than a five-day recall and despite his strong batting performance, which lasted 102 balls and included ten fours, he knows he needs wickets to be sure of his place.
The runs have provided a huge dose of confidence and Hogg is hoping it remains when he bowls. "It just makes you feel a bigger part of the team, knowing you're contributing," he said. "It's good to get runs on the board, but I'm here for my bowling and hopefully I can get the wickets required."
Symonds was proud of his friend's sensible batting and together they deflated an attack that was bouncing for the first half of the day. While Hogg missed three figures, Symonds brought up his second Test century with a single to mid-on. Both have come at critical stages.
Australia were 5 for 84 when he reached 156 against England in 2006-07 and here he doused the early concerns of India getting back into the series following the heavy defeat in Melbourne. He was unbeaten on 137 at stumps after facing 173 balls and hitting 17 fours and two sixes.
"The innings won't mean much till the end of the game," he said. "It's a feeling of satisfaction, but it will mean more if we can have a result in the Test and I've contributed to a win. Four hundred is a very healthy first-innings score and we would hope we wouldn't lose the game from there."
Patient in the first half of his display, Symonds increased his pace after bringing up his half-century early in the final session. Each run was painful for the Indians, who would have dropped Australia to 7 for 193 if Steve Bucknor had seen or heard the edge to Mahendra Singh Dhoni off Ishant Sharma.
"I was very lucky," Symonds said. "I was out on 30 and given not out. That's cricket. I could sit here and tell you about some bad decisions as well, but I won't. People make mistakes, players make mistakes, umpires do too."
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