Low-cost Hogg proves expensive
The expansion of the airline industry has grown alongside the number of Tests being played over the past decade. Planes descend over Adelaide Oval about every five overs, preparing to land on the other side of the city, and it is tempting to wonder the destination of Brad Hogg's next major flight.
Australia are due to tour Pakistan in March before a trip to the West Indies, but Hogg needs more impact over the next four days to convince the selectors he is worth a ticket with - or instead of - Stuart MacGill. While discount flights have opened travel to the masses, Test cricket remains an exclusive business and Hogg is battling to show his class as MacGill recovers from wrist surgery.
"I can't do more than give 100% and try and put the ball where I want to put it," he said. "I've been happy with the way I've bowled and I'm playing against the best players of spin in the world. I'm in a contest and I'm trying to hold my head high. I feel I've done alright."
Hogg is like the Jetstar and Tiger airways, wanting to prove his service record instantly in case things go bust. It doesn't help that he has returned to the Test arena after the Qantas-style career of Shane Warne, who usually kept his crashes to off-field pursuits. People turn off no-frills operators easily so Hogg has to continue convincing the selectors to keep faith in the cut-price option. His commitment and enthusiasm are unquestioned, but this month he has struggled with his key performance indicators.
After going wicketless on the final day in Sydney, where he was out-bowled by the part-timers Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke, Hogg was dropped for his home Test in Perth. The short-term failure of Shaun Tait allowed him to skip back in for Adelaide, but the early signs were not strong and he finished with 1 for 78 in three spells.
While first-day pitches are rarely conquered by slow bowlers, the ease at which the Indian batsmen worked him comfortably and forcefully was a worry and he gave up 4.33 runs an over. It is not an expensive rate in one-dayers, where Hogg is probably the best in the world, but in Tests it releases precious pressure and adds to the action in Adelaide's old-fashioned scoreboard.
At the moment it doesn't seem to matter whether Australia choose Tait or Hogg. They are both extras to the main work being completed by Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark. Lee and Johnson were particularly effective, picking up two wickets each, but things were not as tight when the spinners were used.
After Hogg's hex over Sourav Ganguly remained - the batsman fell for the fourth occasion in the series, this time to a contentious lbw while sweeping - he struggled for more victims no matter how much he pleaded with back-pedalling appeals. Sachin Tendulkar treats Hogg like a warm-up bowler, cautiously fine-tuning in the early stages before expanding his repertoire, and VVS Laxman is also untroubled.
A six was slog-swept over midwicket by Tendulkar, who later hit a straight six and a four through mid-off in a Hogg over that went for 18. "He hit my best ball for six," Hogg said. He was taken out of the attack, and Laxman greeted him with consecutive boundaries when he returned.
Clarke, who was used for five overs, was more expensive than Hogg while Symonds remained untried despite owning seven wickets for the series. Hogg kept bouncing in, ripping the ball as hard as he could and varying his pace from loopier wrong'uns to speedy flippers. Nothing could unseat the settled batsmen.
Unfair expectations are placed on people who arrive when greatness has departed, but it is getting to the point where a long-term decision needs to be made. If MacGill recovers Australia will choose between a budget option and the higher quality of a more unpredictable legspinner. Hogg can make the call easier if he starts to penetrate on a pitch that should suit him as the match goes on.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo