England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval August 25, 2009

Fred was one of the good guys

I'm so happy for Fred that he's managed to go out on his terms. Yes, he's been forced into retirement by injury, but in the circumstances, what a way to go

It's been a funny few days for me, to be perfectly honest. I didn't realise how much I missed Test cricket until I saw the euphoria that followed England's win at The Oval. The scenes were incredible, all the ecstasy on people's faces and the crowds going wild, and it's moments like that when I think: 'I wish I was still there, I wish I was still playing'. That's the hardest bit. The only solution, I've found, is to remove myself from the action and try to take as little notice as possible.

All these emotions are what Andrew Flintoff is going to have to go through in the future, now that he has bowed out of Test cricket. I have to admit I haven't yet seen his glory moment, that run-out of Ricky Ponting that changed the final day. I was playing a benefit match for Anthony McGrath, and so I don't even know where he was fielding at the time. Mid-on, was it? Did he have to move far? Ah, he had to bend down, that was probably the tricky bit!

I'm sure it was a glorious moment - we certainly heard the roar from the clubhouse when the wickets went down. But the whole thing has been a bit surreal. Four years ago I was so involved, and so wrapped up in what was happening in my little group of players, everything was just Ashes, Ashes, Ashes, Ashes. We couldn't move for Ashes fever. Now I'm just wrapped up in my own little game, and occasionally coming in for lunch and thinking, 'oh yeah, what's the score?' The result is fantastic news, but a part of me is a little bit ... numb.

But I'm so happy for Fred that he's managed to go out on his terms. Yes, he's been forced into retirement by injury, but in the circumstances, what a way to go. He could have taken ten wickets in the last innings, or scored a century to set up the game, but other than that he timed it just about perfectly. He's gone with his dignity intact, he's played fantastically well throughout the series with a lot of important wickets, and he's come away at the right time. He'll be able to look back and say, the last thing I did was regain the Ashes.

I wish I could be able to look back without regrets. My last match, in Hamilton, was a disappointing affair. I had a bad game, England got stuffed, and I never played again.

Instead, I have to focus on the memories, and so many of those revolve around Fred, because he was such a massive presence throughout my time with England. In fact, he was right there alongside me during my finest hour, at Johannesburg in 2005, when I grabbed 12 wickets and we beat South Africa on an incredible final day.

I remember halfway through that game, when Harmy's shins were killing him and the whole team was on its knees, Fred came up to me, put his arm around me, and said 'Hoggy, I know you're tired, I'm tired as well, we're both ****ed basically, but me and you together, we'll do it, me and you, let's do it.' It was one big last effort from both of us, I nicked the wickets while he pinged people's heads at the other end, and then we went off and got pissed! Happy days.

That was the greatest thing about Fred. Whenever you get wickets or a five-for, he was always made up for you. He's one of those guys who holds no animosity, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and tells you exactly what he's thinking of you, and most of the time it's good news. He'll tell you he's happy for you, he loves you, and he's really pleased. He's such a good guy. He's got no bad bones in his body, honestly.

The whole thing has been a bit surreal. Four years ago I was so involved, and so wrapped up in what was happening in my little group of players, everything was just Ashes, Ashes, Ashes, Ashes. We couldn't move for Ashes fever. Now I'm just wrapped up in my own little game, and occasionally coming in for lunch and thinking, 'oh yeah, what's the score?'

Everyone gripes about his statistics, but if you look at his career, it's only in the last five years that he's come on leaps and bounds as a bowler. Before that he was more of a batting allrounder, and he didn't pay much attention to his bowling. You can read a lot into stats, but he started out so young with so much riding on him as "the next big allrounder". In his early career he didn't do himself justice, but in his later stage he did fantastically well and contributed to so many victories. And that, at the end of the day, is what matters above all else.

But I guess it's not all bad when you come to the end of your career. I saw a picture of Fred in the paper today with his daughter Holly, and she's a proper little girl now. The last time I saw her she was about two or three, and small. She's really grown-up now and what a lovely time to be able to say: 'That's it, I'm not going to spend so long away from home, I can watch my kids grow up.'

I spent the day with my lad Ernie today. He's two-and-a-bit and really curious about everything, and it's great watching him running around the playground and asking for his dad. I'm sure Fred's going to savour all that quality time with his clan ... when he's not in the gym doing his rehab, of course. He's on such personal terms with Rooster, his fitness coach, he's going to be a page boy at his wedding on Saturday. And then it's back to getting his knee fit again. His Test days are over, but he still wants to play in one-day cricket and the IPL, and I'm sure that incentive will drive him through.

Matthew Hoggard will be writing regular columns for Cricinfo through the 2009 season

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • arbab on August 27, 2009, 16:05 GMT

    Salam hoggard..how r u?? nice to read from you once again, a nice article, why dont you start novel writing, u create a nice scene so nice in fact. Still Missing you in England team. and yeah if you write any novel, let us know any way.

  • Kumar on August 26, 2009, 14:15 GMT

    Nice article Hoggy. I can understand your pain. On the bright side, if you think that you have been BLESSED to play for England and I am sure you know some blokes who were pretty good but never got a chance to play for England - that should give you peace of mind. If you are still considering to comeback, please make the ball talk & I wish you 'all the best' from bottom of my heart. Perform like there is no tomorrow & selectors have to take notice.

    Cheers, Kumar

  • Cricinfouser on August 26, 2009, 11:40 GMT

    A very heart warming article.good peice Hoggy.Every one has to retire one day ,it may be today or tomorrow .It may be an emotional moment.But Freddie will always be in the hearts of all his fans .Anyways hope we will see him in the county action soon.

  • Mark on August 26, 2009, 9:57 GMT

    As a loyal Yorkshireman, I regard it as an outrage that Hoggy was dropped after one allegedly poor match in NZ. None of the bowlers performed well in that test, and making him the scapegoat for the entire team was unbelievable. For all England won the series, there were many times we were crying out for a good right hand fast medium swing bowler who took wickets - Hoggy's the man. Bring him back!

  • Luke on August 26, 2009, 5:51 GMT

    Nice Hoggy, as an Aussie the last 4 years of Eng vs Aus cricket has been so enjoyable because of the characters playing. Perhaps you and Freddie can help Stuart Clark develop some personality and selflessness. Irrespective of stats the game is better from having Fred in it. He epitomises the courage and humility required to play test cricket. It's also wonderful to see such commitment to family and due to this I can appreciate Fred's decision to be a more hands-on dad and husband. These are the two most important jobs a bloke can do and are far more difficult than hittting a piece of leather wrapped around cork!

  • S on August 26, 2009, 4:47 GMT

    An excellent piece - straight from the heart. Hoggy basically had one bad match and was axed forever after. I cannot fathom English selectors. They seem to have something against hard-working, solid blokes and something for show ponies who never fulfill their potential. For what its worth, Hoggy, this Indian is a long-time fan of your cut-the-crap-and-get-on-with-it work ethic. If the England XI were full of blokes like you, not only would you all win more often, you might even have a lot of the cricketing world rooting for you instead of the opposition every time.

  • Ravi on August 26, 2009, 4:16 GMT

    Really heart warming article. As an ardent cricket fan, I really loved the way Freddie played his cricket specially bowling, everytime he came up to bowl he gave it his all... a fierce competitor and a thorough gentelman who despite victory celebrations was always the first to shake hands with the opponents (Brett Lee in 2005 and Hussey 2009) .. He is in my view.. the only genuine all rounder in the world.. one who could match up with the Imran Khans, Hadlees, Bothams & Kapil Devs... though his statistics dont really show wat a great showman he was.... I really do wish he comes back to play test cricket after a 1 year gap ...coz he really makes it enjoyable to watch ..Freddie is a hero for me and for many aspiring cricketers.. I wish him all the best and hope he goes on to become the best one day player of all time..

  • Zain on August 25, 2009, 21:11 GMT

    What a fantastic piece of an article from Hoggard. With Flintoff gone, Engladn are now in for an irreparable damage. No modern all-rounder in the cricket world could match Flintoff's credentials. Also, I wish I could see Hoggy playing test cricket again for England. He's been one of those bowlers who should also be allowed to go on his own terms.

  • Bujji on August 25, 2009, 19:51 GMT

    Nice one Hoggy. You seem like an honest and great guy as well! Freddie is a class act and you just confirmed it from the inside..

    Hope to see you back in the England side soon.

  • Nishantha on August 25, 2009, 15:40 GMT

    This such an emotional and heart warming article. As a Sri Lankan it was such a pleasure seeing Freddie on a cricket ground. He had something in him, may be charisma that no one in the England team can have. Its nice to see Hoggie coming out really honest on how he wished he was playing. Would be interesting to see what Simon Jones also has to say about Freddie. There are two things I really wish, but which are ones that will never come true. One is I would have wished to see Freddie play in Sri Lanka and also I wished he had played more test cricket. He makes watching test matches enjoyable. With him gone I don't see ecen the ashes surviving. To be honest I follow the Ashes more than watching the Sri Lankan test matches. I think its mostly because of Flintoff. Its not only England that has lost a cricketer; its the whole cricket world. Well done Flintoff and all the best coming from me and the rest of the Sri Lankan people

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