Matthew Hoggard joined Paul Collingwood in proving that you do not have to be a sexy, glamorous superstar to take the leading role on a big stage. After watching Collingwood score a brilliant double hundred from the comfort of the visitors' changing room Hoggard strapped on his boots, took a few deep breaths and showed his value to England on the third day of the second Test by nudging forward his side's chase for parity in the Ashes.
Unsympathetic conditions seem to bring out the best in Hoggard and his wholehearted endeavour made Australia realise that it is not only Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne who are going to have work hard for their success during this series. He may only be 29 but he appears to have entered the stage of his career where he has rationalised his role. As a bowler Hoggard is not in the same class as Dennis Lillee or Richard Hadlee, but in their later days they both adapted their games according to the circumstances placed in front of them, and Hoggard possesses the intelligence and skill to do exactly the same.
Hoggard gave England the perfect start when he dismissed Matthew Hayden and Damien Martyn in the first hour of play. Both were guilty of playing weak shots at deliveries that should have caused them little trouble. Hayden wafted at a ball angled across him and was well caught by Geraint Jones diving to his left, while Martyn pushed limply at a fullish delivery from Hoggard and was snared by Ian Bell in the gully.
Hoggard fully deserved his success. He bowled beautifully in the morning session, setting the tone for the remainder of the day. For an hour and a half he fought his way in to a south-westerly, finishing a nine-over spell with the commendable figures of 2 for 16.
On a pitch as benign as this a bowler has to use nous. Hoggard does not possess the pace and bounce of a Stephen Harmison or Andrew Flintoff, who can often get away with slamming the ball into the pitch when very little is happening.
To have any chance of success he had to work with the elements and that is just what he did. He did not let pride get in the way of sensible tactics either, and seemed happy to have Geraint Jones up to the stumps when Ricky Ponting was on strike. Pace bowlers do not like wicketkeepers to position themselves here because it suggests that they are not very fast, but the move kept Ponting in his crease and restricted his strokeplay. Flintoff set intelligent fields and Australia struggled to break free.
The sight of Hoggard chugging in and bowling to a field containing three men on the drive - two on the off side and one on the leg - gave the cricket an old-fashioned feel. And Hoggard is, in many ways, a cricketer from a bygone era. It would be an enormous surprise to see him turn up to a Test with a huge diamond ear-ring hanging from his left lobe, or an ugly tattoo splattered over a bicep.
Hoggard mixed up his bowling after the shine and hardness had disappeared from the ball. He varied his pace, bowled the occasional cutter and warmed to the task of creating problems in idyllic batting conditions. The pitch here is very similar to that England played on in Nagpur earlier this year. There, on a slow, low heartbreaker, Hoggard bowled magnificently against India, waiting for aggressive-minded batsmen to become frustrated and overextend themselves. He finished with 6 for 57.
Hoggard's perseverance should have been rewarded earlier than it was with the crucial wicket of Ponting who, on 35, pulled a flat catch to Ashley Giles at deep square-leg. Australia were on 78 for 3 at the time and looking shaky. A high full-toss from Stephen Harmison seemed to rattle the Australian captain, and his mood failed to improve when the fast bowler refused to apologise. Harmison had no reason to appease Ponting, though - the ball would have hit the stumps had it been straight.
But Giles grassed the chance, to the huge relief of the Australians in another huge crowd. In a lot of people's eyes Shane Warne handed England the Ashes when he dropped Kevin Pietersen on 15 at The Oval in 2005. At the time Michael Vaughan's side were in trouble but Pietersen went on to score an Ashes-winning 158.
It may be a trifle early in the series to suggest that Giles has committed a similarly important error but Ponting compiled a further 107 runs before Hoggard returned to find the outside edge of his bat with the second new ball. The 29-year-old accounted for Michael Hussey, too, when an attempted leave deflected on to his off stump.
Giles scored an unbeaten 27 in England's first innings but those runs are irrelevant. It is his bowling that is important and he caused Ponting and Hussey very few problems during their 192-run partnership.
As England's specialist spinner, a lot is expected from Giles over the final two days of this match, and the manner in which Flintoff used his seamers suggests that there was room for Monty Panesar in the side.
Harmison was more like his old self, bowling with pace and greater control than in Brisbane. His body language was far more positive, too, and the work he continues to do with Kevin Shine, the England bowling coach, appears to be producing results.
Even so, he bowled only 13 overs. James Anderson sent down only 14, too, which suggests England are playing a seamer more than they need to.
Ponting's batting was scratchy in the morning and he could have been dismissed on more than one occasion. A direct hit from Collingwood at midwicket would have run him out on 46 and a loose drive at Anderson shaved his off stump. But, like all great players, he battled through a difficult period to return after lunch, looking what he is: the best batsman in the world.
England won toss
England - First Innings
(Overnight: Friday: 266 for 3)
P D Collingwood c Gilchrist b Clark 206
517 min, 392 balls, 16 fours
K P Pietersen run out (Ponting) 158
380 min, 256 balls, 15 fours, 1 six
*A Flintoff not out 38
100 min, 67 balls, 2 fours, 1 six
ÝG O Jones c Martyn b Warne 1
10 min, 7 balls
A F Giles not out 27
63 min, 44 balls, 4 fours
Extras (lb10 w2 nb8) 20
Total (for 6 dec, 709 min, 168 overs) 551
Fall: 1-32 (Strauss), 2-45 (Cook), 3-158 (Bell), 4-468 (Collingwood), 5-489 (Pietersen), 6-491 (Jones).
Did not bat: M J Hoggard, S J Harmison, J M Anderson.
Bowling: Lee 34-1-139-1; McGrath 30-5-107-0; Clark 34-6-75-3; Warne 53-9-167-1; Clarke 17-2-53-0.
Australia - First Innings
J L Langer c Pietersen b Flintoff 4
9 min, 8 balls, 1 four
M L Hayden c Jones b Hoggard 12
58 min, 30 balls, 1 four
*R T Ponting c Jones b Hoggard 142
354 min, 245 balls, 12 fours
D R Martyn c Bell b Hoggard 11
42 min, 33 balls, 1 four
M E K Hussey b Hoggard 91
298 min, 212 balls, 7 fours, 1 six
M J Clarke not out 30
67 min, 44 balls, 5 fours
ÝA C Gilchrist not out 13
29 min, 17 balls, 1 four
Extras (lb2 nb7) 9
Total (for 5 , 431 min, 97 overs) 312
Fall: 1-8 (Langer), 2-35 (Hayden), 3-65 (Martyn), 4-257 (Ponting), 5-286 (Hussey).
To bat: S K Warne, B Lee, S R Clark, G D McGrath.
Bowling: Hoggard 27-2-76-4; Flintoff 22-4-74-1; Harmison 13-4-46-0; Anderson 14-2-49-0; Giles 16-2-45-0; Pietersen 5-0-20-0.
Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and R E Koertzen (SA). TV replay umpire: S J Davis. Match referee: J J Crowe (NZ).
Third Day: How They Rated
MATTHEW HOGGARD: Four wickets fell, he took all four. Masterful performance. 9
ASHLEY GILES: Did he drop the Ashes? May rue letting Ponting off hook. 3
ANDREW FLINTOFF: Bowled pretty well without luck. Fine day as captain. 7
JAMES ANDERSON: Only bowled 14 overs. Could they have been Monty's? 3
PAUL COLLINGWOOD: Failed to run out Ponting - and two overthrows. -2
STEPHEN HARMISON: Much improved but in real need of a wicket or three. 6
RICKY PONTING: Dodgy start but showed why he is world's best batsman. 9
MIKE HUSSEY: Has a problem in the 90s - not a bad one to have. 8
DAMIEN MARTYN: Limp shot and, if Shane Watson is fit, could be axed. 2
MATTHEW HAYDEN: Hoggard's bunny failed again. 1
Shot of the Day
* Stephen Harmison was much more like his old self yesterday but it did not stop 'Mr Cricket' Michael Hussey from pulling a delivery from the fast bowler over deep square-leg for six. It was simply another top shot from a top player.
Moment of the Day
* When Ricky Ponting pulled Matthew Hoggard in the air to deep square-leg, it seemed as though a wonderful plan had come off. But Ashley Giles dropped the chance and Ponting made England pay with yet another masterful century.
Ball of the Day
* Any ball that gets Ricky Ponting out is a good ball but the one that Matthew Hoggard bowled to dismiss him was a beauty. It pitched on a good length, seamed away enough to find the edge of Ponting's broad bat and carried to the keeper.
Debate of the Day
* Are pitches like the one here at the Adelaide Oval good for Test cricket? Yes, they are. One of the joys of cricket is that the game is played on a huge variety of surfaces. Now that I have retired from playing it is OK for the odd belter to come along.
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