England's two most senior bowlers, Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, have paid the price for their poor performances in last week's 189-run defeat against New Zealand at Hamilton. Both men have both been dropped for Thursday's second Test at Wellington, with Stuart Broad and James Anderson coming into the side at their expense.
The decision marks the end of an era for England. With 460 wickets between them in 124 appearances, Harmison and Hoggard have formed the backbone of their Test attack for the best part of five years, including the seminal Ashes victory in 2005. But the pair were badly off the pace in Hamilton, where they took the combined figures of 2 for 278, and in the opinion of their captain, Michael Vaughan, the time is right for a revamping of the attack.
"It was a very tough call," said Vaughan, "but we had a gut feeling that we needed to make a change. The attack needed a bit of a shake-up and it's a great opportunity for Jimmy and Broady to establish themselves at this level, and stamp their authority on Test cricket. I also hope that Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison really fight and try to take their places back because that will create a healthy environment."
Though Harmison's axing had been on the cards ever since his lacklustre display in Hamilton, the decision on Hoggard was more of a surprise. He has had an unlucky year with injuries, in which he completed only two of England's 11 Tests in 2007, but in his last-but-one outing in Galle in December, he claimed four first-morning wickets to give his side the brief ascendancy. This is the first time that he has been dropped since the corresponding tour to Sri Lanka in December 2003, and in that time he at one stage appeared in 40 consecutive matches.
"He's been and hopefully will be a tremendous bowler for England again," said Vaughan. "He's always been a dream to captain and I expect to captain Matthew Hoggard again in the not-too-distant future, because that's the kind of character he is. I hope they both bounce back. It's not a nice thing for me to do, to tell two players I've played basically all my Test cricket with that they are not in the team.
"But we all know how both of them can bowl and at the minute not bowling to the standards they set themselves," said Vaughan. "I really hope they react in a positive fashion. If they don't play next week, I hope they go back to their counties, start the season well and fight back into the Test team."
In the meantime, it is all about the new incumbents. Anderson has been around the England Test team ever since 2003, but has failed to claim a regular berth, although at the age of 25, his best years should be ahead of him. Broad meanwhile played a solitary Test at Colombo in December, in which he performed admirably on a lifeless track, taking 1 for 95.
Both men have cemented themselves as regulars in the one-day side, although New Zealand's batsmen dented their confidence during the recent 3-1 series defeat, especially Anderson, who was dispatched for 86 runs in ten overs in the tied match in Napier. He has since found some form in a solitary outing for Auckland against Wellington, taking 2 for 95 from 38 overs in an innings defeat, and Vaughan was happy that the time had come for him to be unleashed.
"We have seen Jimmy for a while now, and he's got a hell of a lot of talent," said Vaughan, who recalled his Man of the Series performance against India last summer, in which Anderson took 14 wickets in three Tests. "He then played one game in Sri Lanka and got dropped, so he deserves his chance. When you're in positions like we are, you have to make that gut feeling. He'll be looking to establish himself for the distant future, and that's the opportunity for all the players."
England 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Michael Vaughan (capt), 3 Andrew Strauss, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Paul Collingwood, 7 Tim Ambrose (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Ryan Sidebottom, 10 James Anderson, 11 Monty Panesar.