Top Performer - Matthew Hoggard

The Ever-Ready Bunny

Matthew Hoggard toiled for 42 overs in the first innings, uphill and into the wind for the most part, for the heroic figures of 7 for 109

Andrew Miller

December 6, 2006

Text size: A | A



England lost at Adelaide but it was not for want of more effort from Matthew Hoggard © Getty Images
Enlarge

Matthew Hoggard has a hangdog look at the best of times, so God knows how low his shoulders must be drooping after the events of the past five days. "The Ever-Ready Bunny" was how he described himself on the third evening of the Adelaide Test, after grabbing four of the first five Australian wickets to fall, but those batteries will be feeling a bit flat now. Forty-two overs in the first innings, uphill and into the wind for the most part, for the heroic figures of 7 for 109. And all in a lost cause.

Hoggard is an improbable cricketer. He is a typical English outswing bowler who learnt his trade playing for Pudsey in the Yorkshire Leagues, and who consequently thrives on the green grass of home. And yet he is a character who reserves his best efforts for overseas Tests, when the chips are really down. His finest performances have come not at Headingley or Lord's in early May, but at Johannesburg in the January sun, Nagpur in the stifling heat of Maharashtra and now at Adelaide in an Ashes encounter that, in his own words, England dared not lose.

They did lose, but it was not for want of more effort from Hoggard, the definitive captain's dream. He has been known to sing to himself as he trundles up to the crease, a technique that helps his focus as he plugs away on a length, time and again. It was under Nasser Hussain on his first overseas tour, in India in 2001-02, that he first displayed his aptitude for long and accurate spells. He stuck rigidly to the corridor outside Sachin Tendulkar's off stump, in a bid to render the great man strokeless. It was a ploy that very nearly succeeded, only for rain to rob England of a chance for a series-leveling victory.

By his own admission, the lessons he learned on the subcontinent have been invaluable ever since. Until England's great collapse robbed him of the limelight, Adelaide was shaping up as his most valuable performance since the Nagpur Test against India last winter, when he took 6 for 57 in 30.5 unrelentingly accurate overs, to stifle a great Indian line-up including Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. That performance secured a draw in what turned out to be a drawn series, and before that, his 12-wicket haul at Johannesburg in 2004-05 - a game in which he carried a battle-weary attack - secured England's first series win in South Africa for more than 30 years.



'Hoggard is the ever-present. The man who cannot be wearied by any degree of toil' © Getty Images
Enlarge

He lacks the glamour of England's speedier options, and was famously described by Michael Vaughan as England's shop-floor steward - the man who keeps things in control for the rest of the attack to work around. But there is no doubting his status as England's senior bowler. He has been leading the attack for the best part of four years, and in that time he has climbed stealthily into the top ten all-time England wicket-takers.

With 232 wickets, he leapfrogged his old Yorkshire team-mate, Darren Gough, in eighth place during this Test, and is nestled in behind Andrew Caddick - a man who claimed there'd be no room for Hoggard in a fully fit England attack. And therein lies the rub. Hoggard is the ever-present. The man who cannot be wearied by any degree of toil. Since his recall in the Caribbean in the spring of 2004, he has played in every one of England's 38 Tests, and on the evidence at Adelaide, they cannot do without him.

What they say
"There is big difference in Hoggard on this tour from when he last toured Australia. I thought he was a good bowler with the new ball when it was swinging, but once the shine went off he was cannon fodder. But he's gone away and worked on a method on how he can still bowl well when the ball isn't swinging and he put that plan in operation perfectly." Ian Chappell on Hoggard's Adelaide performance.

What he says
"I just closed my eyes and whanged it down, and you take your chances." How Hoggard summed up his spell on the third day at Adelaide.

What you may not know
Though he is known around the game for a zany sense of humour, Hoggard is one of the brightest members of the England team, and had cricket not intervened, he had hoped to pursue a career as a vet.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: Andrew Miller

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Andrew MillerClose
Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
Related Links
Players/Officials: Matthew Hoggard
Series/Tournaments: The Ashes, 2006/07
Teams: England

'The man who had a winning impact'

Modern Masters: Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar discuss VVS Laxman's match-winning skills

    'If I were a fruit, I'd be an orange'

Jonny Bairstow talks red hair, team-mates to avoid while batting, and what to see in Yorkshire

Once a rat in blue, now the Kohinoor

The Cricket Monthly: Kamran Abbasi hates to love Virat Kohli
Download the app for: iPad | for Android tablet

    A touch of Bradman

Hundred in a session? Easy peasy for Doug Walters. Ashley Mallett on his old team-mate's way with a stroke

The Lahoris in the CLT20

Hassan Cheema: They aren't as awe-inspiring as their predecessors, but they will do well if they keep the traditions of their city alive

News | Features Last 7 days

Youngest double-centurions, and the oldest living Test players

Also, the closest ODI team match-ups, most catches in a T20, and expensive Test debut five-fors

From Constantine to Chanderpaul

As West Indies play their 500th Test, here's an interactive journey through their Test history

I got more than I expected - Shastri

ESPNcricinfo spoke to Ravi Shastri, India's new team director, after the conclusion of the tour of England, where MS Dhoni's team lost the Tests, won the ODIs and then lost the only Twenty20 international

Soaring in the 1980s, slumping in the 2000s

In their pomp, West Indies had a 53-13 win-loss record; in their last 99, it is 16-53. That, in a nutshell, shows how steep the decline has been

The contenders to replace Ajmal

Following the bowling ban on Saeed Ajmal, ESPNcricinfo picks five bowlers Pakistan may replace him with for the time being

News | Features Last 7 days