From chorus line to front row, Hoggard enters stellar territory

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For most of his international career Matthew Hoggard has been in the chorus line while others have been belting out big numbers at the front of the stage. In his dry Yorkshire way he has regularly made jokes about it.

For most of his international career Matthew Hoggard has been in the chorus line while others have been belting out big numbers at the front of the stage. In his dry Yorkshire way he has regularly made jokes about it.

"I'll just come in with my gentle medium pace, trying to keep them quiet and let the fast guys strut their stuff and blast them out," he has often been heard to say.

Occasionally, he has been allowed a piece of the action such as when he took a hat-trick in Barbados last year.

But mostly Hoggard has been played the support role, the type of guy who is always around, reliable, hard-working: you know the face but are dashed if you can remember the name. Yesterday, Hoggard became a star in his own right.

His match figures of 12 for 205 were not only by some way the best of his career, but the best by an England bowler since Ian Botham took 13 for 106 in Bombay 25 years ago. Hoggard is a slightly different character from Botham.

He is a diffident chap who concealed his intelligence when he first got into the England team by acting the goat. Frankly, he managed to get on some peoples' nerves. But what he could never conceal was his willingness to bowl. Hoggard is the type of man who would run through brick walls.

Strangely, he has actually had first use of the new ball for a while now, although Stephen Harmison, with his ferocious pace has been the true leader of the attack. But Hoggard has always been there when needed, never shirking his duties even when it was clear that the day was not going to be his.

Ray Jennings, South Africa's coach, paid him a handsome tribute in defeat yesterday, which spoke volumes about both men. "Matthew's bowling spells throughout the whole series have been good. You can't close your eyes and remember a spell where he hasn't put his heart into it. He has put the ball consistently in the right channels. He has shown a lot of passion and energy and he has got the result. I take my hat off to him for his passion and desire. He keeps it coming. He has bowled 50 overs this match [actually 52.3] and he can put a lot of bowlers to shame for the effort he has shown."

Hoggard is well known to South Africans. He spent four English winters in the country when he was developing as a young fast bowler, two in Johannesburg as a club cricketer and two more in Bloemfontein with Free State. They liked the cut of his jib because they recognised and admired his work ethic.

What they probably did not have in mind was that Hoggard would return after four years' absence and put them repeatedly under the cosh. He has been England's most consistent bowler throughout the series, simply relying on the eternal verities, line and length.

Hoggard looked tired and slightly nonplussed by events, which were both understandable reactions. He will not like all the fuss, or the notebooks and cameras that will dance attendance on him over the next few days. His favourite pastime is walking his dogs (usually alone) in the countryside near his home close to Baildon in West Yorkshire and going home to open one of the many cans of beer he keeps in his fridge.

He took little credit. "The wicket did a little bit, there were cracks opening up, so the batters weren't sure what the ball was going to do. If you put the ball in the right areas, you put them under pressure and thankfully the three seam bowlers did that today."

There was just one moment of Hoggard drollery. Asked what had changed since he was last in South Africa he said: "Obviously my hair has got longer."

It was a remarkable performance of accurate swing bowling. And if Hoggard does not wish to claim the credit there is someone around who might. Before the match, Hoggard had his first long chat with one of the legends of Yorkshire and England fast bowling. It is fair bet that Fred Trueman told him what should be going off out there.

Hoggard: The making of a hero

1976: Born Leeds, 31 December.

1996: Makes County Championship debut for Yorkshire.

2000: Makes Test debut against West Indies at Lord's. Finishes wicketless in first innings and does not bowl in second as the tourists are skittled for 54. Awarded county cap. Top wicket-taker in one-day National League with 37 at an average of 12.37. Named Professional Cricketers' Association Young Player of the Year.

2001: Takes first Test wicket, Pakistan's Younis Khan at Old Trafford. Makes one-day international debut in England's victory over Zimbabwe in Harare. Takes 2 for 25. Claims first one-day five-wicket haul against Zimbabwe in Harare.

2002: Claims Test best figures (7 for 63) against New Zealand in Christchurch, the best innings return by an England bowler against the Black Caps. Hits highest Test score of 32 against India at Trent Bridge. Awarded central contract.

2004: Takes hat-trick against West Indies in Barbados.

2005: Takes first 12-wicket match haul as England beat South Africa in Johannesburg by 77 runs. Takes 7 for 61 in second innings.

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