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Late starter Michael Hogan will lead Glamorgan attack in Royal London Cup final against Durham

His 40th birthday behind him, Hogan is the competition's meanest bowler

David Hopps
David Hopps
18-Aug-2021
Michael Hogan ripped through Somerset's top order, Somerset vs Glamorgan, Royal London Cup, Taunton, July 28, 2021

Michael Hogan has made the most of his opportunity this year  •  Harry Trump/Getty Images

When Michael Hogan was a weekend away from abandoning his efforts to become an Australian first-class cricketer, wondering at 27 how life might turn out, he would never have imagined that 13 years later he would still be clocking up the overs and about to turn out in a domestic final for Glamorgan. And turn out for them, more to the point, as the meanest bowler in the competition.
Even this April, a 50-over final would have sounded a bit of a stretch. Dave Harrison, who had stepped in as Glamorgan's one-day coach after Matt Maynard joined Welsh Fire's coaching set-up in the Hundred, just asked him to bowl a few overs, help the younger guys and, if their challenge fell away, retreat to the sidelines.
But the challenge never did fall away and Hogan, his 40th birthday behind him, will lead their attack against Durham in the Royal London floodlit final at Trent Bridge. In nine matches, and 60 overs, he has been the only regular bowler to concede less than three an over.
At Trent Bridge, the bowler who has forced batters to live a hand-to-mouth existence faces the competition's most prolific opening combination - Alex Lees and Graham Clark.
Hogan has been a professional's cricketer, an ultra-dependable and highly-respected seamer who has taken 852 wickets across all formats since his belated debut for Western Australia in 2009. He has become one of the stalwarts of Glamorgan cricket history, but without that unexpected phone call from Tom Moody he might never have played at all. He was a beer-and-surf cricketer who had travelled down from Newcastle to give it a more serious go with Northern Districts in Sydney Grade, but who had been minded to move on.
"It was a bit of a surreal thing," he said, as Glamorgan prepared to travel to Trent Bridge. "I had finished a Grade Cricket season in Sydney for Northern Districts, I was 27 and it was my last crack really. I'd had a good year, but I thought I would probably move back to Newcastle and stay there.
"Newcastle were playing down at Parramatta in the rugby league and I thought I would go to the game with a few mates then head home. I was going to start looking for a job. I had a good job at the council, working on cricket grounds as a curator in Sydney, so I would look around for something like that in Newcastle and thought that would do me.
"On the Friday afternoon I had a phone call from Tom Moody asking to me to get on a plane for practice on Monday and I thought of course I can. I did OK and I had a phone call on the Thursday with an offer of a two-year contract. I had gone from giving up a potential opportunity in first-class cricket to signing a contract in the space of a few days."
The pace and bounce at the WACA turned many a fast bowler's head and it was not long before Moody intervened. "You're a length bowler," he impressed upon him. Hogan still regards that as "the best advice I've ever received in my life". And he has stuck to such principles ever since, every year stating that he wanted to help Glamorgan win silverware and now finding that as his career enters its final phase he has that opportunity.
"I've never really been an express bowler," he said. "I guess at my quickest I was around 85mph. Oppositions teams used to come to the WACA from the Eastern States and get excited by the pace and bounce and try to bowl short but it's not effective. I got trapped into that mindset for a few weeks and then Tom gave me a tap on the shoulder, nice and early, and said that's not what you're here for."
Hogan, a British passport holder, was recommended to Glamorgan by his fellow Australian, Marcus North, whose bounce around the English counties had at that time taken him to Wales. North will be at Trent Bridge on Thursday as Durham's director of cricket and will doubtless find time to reflect on how things have turned out nearly a decade later.
"Touch wood, since I've come into this level of cricket I have not had a great deal of injuries and I probably do put that down to starting late"
Michael Hogan
Hogan's contribution to Glamorgan's semi-final win was very much in keeping with his career. He conceded 1 for 21 against Essex, crucial in enabling Glamorgan to chase down a 290 target later in the day, his only blemish a solitary boundary in three spells - a one-legged pull shot by Alastair Cook when he missed his length by a couple of feet, briefly scratched his head in puzzlement and then just got on with it.
"I guess I've never been a flashy player," he said. "I am not one to take the big bags all the time or have highs and lows, I try to keep it as steady as possible and we've found the white ball has seamed a bit this year which has helped. That's probably my role in the team at the moment, to try and control the rate when teams look like they are getting away from us. Find some dot balls and hopefully take a wicket. If I can go at twos and threes which I probably have for the majority of this tournament then I think my job's done. But we have all had our moments in various games."
Just to be playing white-ball cricket is a bit of a turn-up after playing only five matches in the two seasons prior to the Covid pandemic. But with the Hundred claiming most of the attention, and draining county resources, the Royal London has been a bit of a lads and dads competition and he has answered the call superbly.
"I had found I picked up a few more niggles in white-ball cricket," he said. "Through necessity really this year, with players leaving for the Hundred, and a few injuries I spoke to Dave Harrison and he said he wanted me to play, more so for experience for the younger guys when I'm not bowling, stand at mid off and help them out with their plans, and when we get halfway into the tournament, we'll see how you're going and maybe ease you out if we're not going too well.
"But as it turns out we're winning games and playing good cricket, there have been some good performances from people who have shown what they can do, and here I am."
Adventurous young batters abound in England and Wales, but eye-catching young bowlers are less easy to find. Hogan is representative of a type that English cricket, which its emphasis on junior pathways, repeatedly missed - the late developer, the seam bowler who only bowls regularly once his body has reached full physical strength. His survival at 40 carries a pertinent message. The same could be said of Darren Stevens, five years older, and a different sort of bowler, but someone who did not bowl regularly until deep into his 30s.
Hogan reflected: "There are people more qualified to make that decision about bowling at a young age than me, but touch wood, since I've come into this level of cricket I have not had a great deal of injuries and I probably do put that down to starting late. I do my running and my strength work and that sort of stuff but giving the body the opportunity to grow before putting it under the high stress of repetitive bowling has probably helped my longevity.
"My recovery is serious these days. It certainly isn't as it was, let's say - win a game and go out and have a few beers. I look after myself. I am still a bit stiff and sore after the semi so I have to make sure when I get to Nottingham I'll probably go into the pool and the gym and have a bit of a stretch to give myself the best opportunity of waking up fresh."
Home is Cardiff at the moment. He last played in Australia in 2015-16 but since then, with his children of school age, he has not gone back. His children even have a smattering of Welsh, although Hogan admits: "I've got zero. They could be saying anything to me and I wouldn't know."
He has reached agreement on another year in 2022, but nothing is guaranteed for a 40-year-old seamer and a domestic final is a nice reward for years of service.
"Every year we chat to see where I'm at and how my form is going," he said. "We'll probably chat at the end of the season and again in March. I'm not getting any younger and it doesn't get any easier. But I'm still bowling well enough and enjoying my cricket so we'll see what happens. But at the moment I'm just thinking about what Thursday brings."

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps