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Matthew Hoggard: England’s industrious swing bowler in Test cricket

Matthew Hoggard © Getty Images
Matthew Hoggard © Getty Images

Matthew Hoggard, born on Dec 31, 1976 didn’t bowl with venomous pace nor did he have the prestidigitation of a swing-merchant to move it late. However he ploughed away for England in the 2000s and did an admirable job by taking more than 200 wickets in Test cricket. Bharath Ramaraj looks back at Hoggard’s career.

When the Leeds born Matthew Hoggard bowled with a farmer-like gait, he wouldn’t have given batsmen sleepless nights. However, despite not having the skillful sorcery of a banana-bending swing bowler, he went onto become one of England’s reliable bowlers in 2000s.

Hoggard, born on Dec 1, 1976, came into the limelight when he took a clatter of wickets in 1999 First-Class season for his county, Yorkshire. His spell at the Derby County ground against Derbyshire gave ample proof of his ability to bowl with metronomic line and length and swing the ball in the air. He took 28 wickets at 22.10 that season for his County. Interestingly, as Hoggard continued to celebrate all those wickets with his jovial smile, England hit the nadir by bowing out of the group phase of their World Cup campaign held at home.

So, it wasn’t surprising that in spite of a few below par performances in the 2000 county season, he was picked to play against West Indies in the home Test series at Lord’s. Hoggard didn’t take wickets in that Test, but it ended in a pulsating game with England, on the back of Dominic Cork’s steel of nerves, eschewing a monumental victory by two wickets.

He had to wait for one more year, before playing his next Test match against Pakistan at Old Trafford. In a controversial Test match that saw umpire David Shepherd missing out on Pakistan’s bowlers overstepping the crease leading to English batsmen being given out, Hoggard made his mark by taking six wickets in the match. The track was good for batting and that would have pleased him, as he did well in unresponsive conditions.

A few injuries saw him sit out of the all-important Ashes series in 2001, before he came back to play against India in their own den in 2001-02. With the duo of Darren Gough and Andy Caddick withdrawing from the tour, it suddenly catapulted Hoggard to leading the pace attack on the back of two Tests. Yet, Hoggard with a new and improved Andrew Flintoff, did an admirable job against a famed batting line-up in alien conditions.

His world though, soon came crashing down with a huge thud, as he struggled on the hard tracks of Australia in 2002-03. It was his inability to find any movement off the pitch that proved to be his bane. He found Sydney Cricket Ground to his liking by touching noteworthy crusts in the final Test, but that was largely a tour Hoggard would like to forget, if he can.

In the West Indies in 2004, he re-invented himself by cutting down on his pace and looking to generate swing by lowering his arm. He would have been over the moon  when he took a hat-trick in the third Test match at Bridgetown, Barbados. First, he enticed a drive from Ramnaresh Sarwan to produce a thick edge. He followed it up by catching Shivnarine Chanderpual on the crease in an awkward chest-on position to trap him dead in front. Finally, he produced the one that left the left-handed Ryan Hinds ever so slightly to catch the edge of the willow. After taking the wicket, he celebrated like there was no tomorrow. The champagne would have flowed liberally on him that night.

© Getty Images
Matthew Hoggard relied on movement and accuracy to take wickets © Getty Images

In the Test series against South Africa in 2004-05, he was generally amongst the wickets. He took 26 wickets at 25.50 in that series. Actually, it was in the fourth Test of the series at Wanderers, Johannesburg when he bowled with gusto and warrior-like spirit. With James Anderson and Steve Harmison struggling for rhythm, Hoggard took it upon himself to deliver a beast of a spell, especially in the second innings. His spell helped England to beat South Africa. It was game, where South Africa fought tooth and nail right till the very end. Another interesting feature about Hoggard’s bowling in that was series how often he dismissed South Africa’s go-to man Graeme Smith with his inswinger.

In 2005 Ashes series, Australia perhaps underestimated Hoggard and that came back to bite them, as he took a stackful of wickets in the series. His spell at Oval in the second innings played a crucial role in England’s first series win for 19 years against Australia. The entire country celebrated as though, England had just won the football World Cup after the Ashes triumph.

One of Hoggard’s finest moments came when they arrived on the Indian shores to play a three-match Test series in 2006. In the first Test match at Nagpur, India looked set to match England’s sizable first innings total. But on the third day of the Test, Hoggard found a wee bit of movement in the air and off the pitch to achieve the gargantuan task of taking a five-for in Indian conditions. It was a series in which Hoggard constantly had a wood on India’s feisty opener, Virender Sehwag.

In 2006-07 Ashes series, Hoggard was expected to play a supporting act to Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmsion. But he suddenly had to take up the mantle of being the strike force with Harmison bowling lacklustre spells. At Adelaide in the second Test match, he bowled with a heart of a lion and a brain of a wily fox to make inroads into Australia’s strong batting order. However, Ashley Giles, fielding at deep mid-wicket, dropped a tough chance off Ricky Ponting and that turned the table on its head. Despite that Hoggard finished with seven wickets in the first innings. Eventually Australia engineered what can be called as an once-in-a-lifetime comeback to win the game.

As the years went by though, Hoggard missed a few Tests due to injuries. With both Hoggard and Harmison failing hopelessly in the first Test match at Hamilton against New Zealand in 2008, Peter Moores England’s the then coach dropped them and ushered in a new era by picking Anderson and Stuart Broad.

There was also a feeling that the think-tank didn’t trust him, as he told them that he was suffering from a wallow of depression. Hoggard, in the middle of an over in that Test at Hamilton told captain Michael Vaughan, “I’m doing a Tres here, I’m going cuckoo.” Unfortunately, it turned out to be his last Test match in England colours. When Darren Pattinson was picked ahead of him for the Headingley Test against South Africa that year, it was a known fact that his time at the top echelons of the game was up.

In 2009, Hoggard was shockingly released by Yorkshire. He signed up with Leicestershire for 2010, as a player and captain. In his final season for them in 2013, he couldn’t snare even a single wicket in the two games he played and that led to his retirement. The last wicket he took was that of Worcestershire batsman, Daryl Mitchell.

Unlike James Anderson, Hoggard never swung it late to leave the batsmen in a state of a trance, but he did carve out a fine career for himself by sticking to his limitations and bowling with energetic stamina.

In photos: Matthew Hoggard’s cricketing career

(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)

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