Fourth Test, Melbourne December 28, 2006

The Best-Laid Plans

"I just close my eyes and whang it down anyway, so there's not much planning there." Thus Matthew Hoggard, bringing the house down at his press conference last night, in response to the mysterious straying of England’s bowling plan

"I just close my eyes and whang it down anyway, so there's not much planning there." Thus Matthew Hoggard, bringing the house down at his press conference last night, in response to the mysterious straying of England’s bowling plan. And quite so: the plan is mainly of curiosity rather than strategic value.

Mind you, noone would be surprised were it Sajid Mahmood’s copy, as he was not bowling to any recognizable logic either. He has an athletic run-up, a good turn of speed, and bowls a remarkable variety of deliveries, including a change-up that reminds me of the pitcher Tommy Johns’, whose slower ball was said to be so slow that he could walk alongside it. But he is as raw as sushi: an international bowler must be able to bowl consecutive deliveries in the same place. If Martin Johnson hadn’t used it to describe Devon Malcolm, he would deserve the tag ‘Lightning’ for never striking twice in the same place.

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

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  • testli5504537 on December 30, 2006, 2:22 GMT

    I thought the document was fascinating. It was obviously just a vague set of ideas and most bowlers wouldn't be able to remember much of it when play actually began but it was a great insight into the cricketing HQ. Presumably most teams have similar documents. Presumably England had one in 2005 (remember that series they won?). The odd thing is alot of the ideas actually happened in the Aussie first dig. Hussey was bowled, Ponting chased a short one well outside off, Clarke nicked behind early. Just because a plan didn't work doesn't make it a bad plan. The problem with England is the execution of plans (and team selection, captaincy selection, field placement, preparation....).

    Having said that I think Ponting's should read 'bowl nothing short, bowl nothing straight, stack the offside field, bowl 2 feet outside off, just short of a length'. It astounds me how badly players bowl to Punter.

  • testli5504537 on December 29, 2006, 14:31 GMT

    The excellence of Matthew Hoggard can be gathered from his immortal comment at the Downing Street reception after England - um - won the ashes (has there ever been an available bandwagon Blair has not jumped on).

    Seeing a crush of photographers blair asked what they wanted.

    Hoggard replied 'A photo, you knob'.

    It is not an original thought but bears repetition: of all the millions of words expended on Blair just two suffice.

    You knob.

  • testli5504537 on December 29, 2006, 6:25 GMT

    I have to agree with the above people, Hoggard may keep his medal from 2005 for contributions to Sport and Humourous Media Conferences. As for his move to Number 11, I felt that did wonders for his batting, freed his arms opened his shoulders and lashed out a bit. Good on him!

    As for leaked plans..."Ponting goes hard at the ball early on" no kidding....makes me wonder, did they have an end of season exam? It's just that they put it up on the dunny door like many of us did with our times tables when in year 3 :)

  • testli5504537 on December 28, 2006, 18:39 GMT

    Its pathetic, to say the least. Given time and resources, I bet, most of us could come up with a better plan to tackle the Aussies. Its a lot of rubbish. One guy whom I really admire is Hoggard. I have seen him smiling from ear to ear in the hot and humid conditions in India after toiling for 25 overs. Maybe, Tresco should have been roomed with Hoggard.

  • testli5504537 on December 28, 2006, 15:36 GMT

    What a load of rubbish? When New Zealand first packed four-people square on the off-side for Damine Martyn, we didn't need colour-coded maps to see what they were doing. To suggest that the leak of plans contributed to England's defeat is an affront to Australia. I think England got at least one thing right sending Matthew Hoggard in at number 11.

  • testli5504537 on December 28, 2006, 12:42 GMT

    Isn't Botham going on like a pork chop?

    Now Duncan Fletcher (a master tactician whose follow up to his book about the 2005 series "Ashes Regained" is entitled "One out of Four ain't bad") is saying that their were similar security breaches before Brisbane that he doesn't want to elaborate on?

    Looks to me that botham is running from the Dads Army comments and Fletcher is looking for somewhere to hide.

  • testli5504537 on December 28, 2006, 5:57 GMT

    Mahmood was meant to leak it as an exclusive to the Guardian, but gave it to Geoff Lawson believing he was Gideon Haigh

  • testli5504537 on December 28, 2006, 5:44 GMT

    At least that's something England's batsmen have in common with their bowlers; they both play with they're eyes shut. Maybe Rudi's been following Hoggard's game plan too.

  • testli5504537 on December 28, 2006, 3:47 GMT

    I thought England's leaked war map was a load of crap, too vague and certainly not comprehensive. They might as well have noted the following in their memo and done better: "Bowl better than you did in the 05 summer and you might have a chance".

  • testli5504537 on December 28, 2006, 2:23 GMT

    Matthew Hoggard is a breath of fresh air for us Aussies, he has humour, self deprecating and likes to hang a bit of shit on his teamates. He should be a mandatory attendee at every press conference

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