Brad Hogg has Travis Head dropped, next ball he strikes him on the thigh pad with a wrong'un that Head doesn't get near. The following delivery Hogg comes through and bowls a phantom ball to see what Head is about to do, then stares at him with that partly maniacal, partly cheeky look. It's classic Hogg, it's clear from his eyes, he'd do this forever if he could.
From his first two overs he has gone at only a run a ball and only conceded one boundary.
It's just two more overs from one of the best bowlers in the short history of T20. He made a comeback as a spinner when people weren't sure about spinners. He got a call-up to the IPL, despite that being tough for an overseas tweaker. And he even made a comeback for Australia.
He gets a third over, but not a fourth.
Batsmen over 35 usually dip off in T20 according to white-ball analytics. In general, that is the age where pro athletes slow down. This season we've seen both Brad Hodge and Kevin Pietersen struggle against the extra pace of Mitchell Johnson and Billy Stanlake. For wristspinners that isn't as obvious a problem; they've traditionally played to far older ages than quicks, and even batsmen. But you still need a quick arm-speed to bowl wristspin. One place where having a higher speed is handy is against the sweep. The more you can mix up your pace, the better it is.
Hogg hasn't been swept more this year than others. According to CricViz, batsmen have played 26 sweeps against him this year, and 29 in each of the two years before that. But this year he's gone for more runs when he's been swept, 62 runs from the sweep; the next highest was last year at 45. And the biggest boundary percentage in any year he's gone from the sweep was in BBL02, that was 21%. This year the sweep has gone for 38%. The sweep is interesting is because the sweep largely takes out of play the fact that batsmen still can't pick his wrong'un.
Tonight in 18 balls the Adelaide Strikers attempted the sweep eight times. Alex Carey took a four from him, so did Colin Ingram, and Travis Head slog-swept one into the crowd.
In his third over, Ingram and Head got him; Hogg leaked 18 runs. It meant after three overs he'd gone for 30. Mark Howard said on commentary, "It's not often you see Brad Hogg hit around like this". And you don't; almost ever. But this year Hogg has been going for more runs than usual.
"Hogg came back to cricket after a four-year break. A whole generation of young cricketers didn't get to play him. When they did, unlike the older players, it wasn't through longer spells in List A and first-class cricket where they could work him out."
CricViz tweeted tonight, "Of spinners to have bowled 100+ balls in the middle overs; Hogg has the highest economy rate (8.21)". That went up to 8.45 tonight. For all the spinners combined from overs 7-14, they're at 6.4. It was those middle overs that Hogg used to prance around in like a pantomime villain as he dominated batsmen, now he's way back in the pack. In his career before this season, he took 54 wickets at 22.9, and his economy was a staggering 6.4. Last year was his worst year for economy; he was at 7.2 an over. This year he's up to 8.25 overall. That's almost two runs up on his career mark. Batsmen are scoring 50% of their runs from him in boundaries, before he was down at 36%.
Maybe the most shocking stat is how often he lets through 15 or more in an over. This year he has done it four times in 28 overs; in his entire career of 193 overs before this year he'd only ever done it five times. Brad Hogg has spent a whole BBL career never being hit. That is now over.
The reason he has been so hard to hit is that spinning the ball both ways with any subterfuge is about the best skill you can have in T20. Hogg came back to cricket after a four-year break. A whole generation of young cricketers didn't get to play him. When they did, unlike the older players, it wasn't through longer spells in List A and first-class cricket where they could work him out. It was a ball here and there in T20, most of which beat their bats. There was a possibility, since the wrong'un is his superpower, that they'd work him out once they played him more. Travis Head has played all but one season of the BBL, and he didn't look like he had.
Hogg's accuracy and consistency are still there. He might be getting hit more, but it's not evident from just watching him bowl why that is so. Perhaps he doesn't get the spin or the bounce he used to. Maybe he can't vary his pace as much because of getting on a bit. His fielding has dropped off, but for a 46-year-old (he turns 47 not long after this season) he's not a complete liability. There are far worse fielders than him around in T20 cricket, but he gets hidden in the field every game now. Hogg may have started his professional career as a number six batsman for Western Australia (he averaged 35 batting first-class), but his T20 renaissance was never about batting. He's only ever made 351 runs in his 141-match career.
It's his bowling alone that has got this phase of his career. And it's not as good as it used to be. He's not terrible, but on current numbers, you'd have to question if he is still a better bowler than the back-up Renegades spinner Jon Holland; who has made the Australian Test squad.
While Hogg didn't finish his four overs, he took one more catch, hiding at old man's corner (short fine leg). Jake Lehmann tried to scoop the last ball of the innings over Hogg's head. Hogg jumped, although it's hard to call it a jump; he barely got airborne, but it was enough to get hands on the ball. But he didn't instantly pouch it. Instead, he fumbled it, and then he clutched for it as he turned around, and on the third attempt he just hung on.
His first two overs tonight were classic Hogg; the next one was the reality that he can't play forever. This is the last year of Hogg's current contract. The fairytale comeback and surreal cameo might be over. He will want another year, and he might get it, but at the moment he's just hanging on.
Fifty minutes after the game tonight, he was still walking around the crowd giving autographs and selfies. No other players were. It was just him, and a handful of fans. It's classic Hogg. It's clear he'd do this forever if he could, but it may not be his choice.