Hoggard reflects on the wind of change
Matthew Hoggard was left rueing England's misfortune with the weather at the close of the second day's play, after a bold overnight declaration backfired to allow South Africa back into the game. By the close, they trailed by just 105 runs, thanks to a brilliant unbeaten century from Herschelle Gibbs.
"That was a change of fortune with the weather," said Hoggard. "When it was overcast, the wicket was doing things, but then 20 minutes [after we declared], the sun came out. It's evenly poised now, but if South Africa get past our score, it'll be a bit of a dogfight in the last innings. But hopefully we'll get four quick wickets and put the pressure back on them."
A tough day for England's bowlers was made even more arduous when Steve Harmison pulled up in the middle of his 13th over, suffering from pain at the top of his left calf. "Harmo's been our leading bowler all year, so it was a massive blow," admitted Hoggard. "But we just had to pull our socks up and get on with it.
"I wasn't too tired by the end," he insisted, adding that he had picked up four wickets despite bowling as badly as he has done all tour. "My energy levels were good, but unfortunately the fluid in my body disappeared and I was shuffling in with cramp. The altitude doesn't help, and it's been a long day with an extra half-hour at the start and half-an-hour at the end, but it was the worst I've bowled all tour, so to get four wickets, I'm quite happy."
Hoggard had some words of encouragement for James Anderson as well, who came into the Test as a late replacement for Simon Jones, and bowled without much rhythm, having not had any opportunity to play competitively for more than a month. "He bowled a few wides at the end of his spell, but it's hard to come straight from the nets, so he's done really well and there are no worries about how he bowled. I tried to impart my words of wisdom, for what they're worth, and tried to keep his spirits up."
The afternoon session included a controversial catch at slip for Marcus Trescothick, who removed Boeta Dippenaar for a duck, even though some commentators openly questioned whether the ball had carried. But Hoggard had no doubts. "Tres says it went straight in and he got his fingers underneath the ball, and really you've got to take the fielder's word for it. He's a very honest lad and wouldn't cheat, especially with the cameras about."
There was also some puzzlement as to why Ashley Giles only bowled only seven overs, despite England being a seamer short. "It wasn't a tactical thing," said Hoggard, "but the ball was doing a bit for the seamers. If you get the ball in the right areas there's something in it, but when the sun comes out, there's not as much around.
"We knew it was going to be a hard series," said Hoggard. "South Africa are a competitive side, and we have to keep playing well to beat them. But we'll put our feet up tonight, and come out refreshed tomorrow."
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Cricinfo.