While the arguments will rage on about the ethics of England's bowling tactics in the second and third Tests of this series, no one should be in any disagreement about the value of Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff's bowling. They have done a fine job for England, who restricted India to 218 for 7 on the third day of the third Test here yesterday.
In Ahmedabad, after taking three of the first four Indian wickets, it was their control which helped to keep Sachin Tendulkar in check in the first part of his innings of 103. In these two matches, Flintoff has found at least an extra yard of pace, while Hoggard's control and his ability to move the ball away from the bat has been impressive. They have become strike bowlers to be reckoned with.
When India began their first innings on the second day here after England had made 336, Flintoff was extremely hostile, bowling at somewhere between 85 and 90mph. He picked up three wickets at the start of the innings and with luck could have had more. Hoggard, who does not exceed 85mph, began solidly and then produced a brilliant spell yesterday morning when he picked up two important wickets – Raul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly – bowling to a tight off-stump line. He also had Verinder Sehwag dropped in the slips when he had made one.
The Yorkshireman Hoggard has impressed everyone with his determination and hard work since he has come into the England squad. After his showing here in India, the selectors may want to reconsider recalling Andrew Caddick for the series in New Zealand in the new year.
Until the end of last summer the Lancastrian Flintoff had been regarded as a batsman who can bowl. In three weeks he has stood that on its head and become a bowler who can bat. He has struck a depressing patch with the bat, however, and in five innings in this series has scored 26 runs. The Indian spinners have presented him with apparently unfathomable problems.
Flintoff must get to grips with his batting for he has a great talent, but at the moment he is uncertain how to make the most of it. It would be sensible to drop him down the order to seven which would allow Craig White a better chance at No 6. When Flintoff does begin to score the runs he should, England will then have two genuine all-rounders and a distinctly lively third seamer besides.
It has been hugely encouraging on this tour to see the young players showing that they have character, which is such an important addition to talent. Great credit must go to Nasser Hussain and Duncan Fletcher for the way they have directed these young players. England will return home for Christmas at the weekend with a much healthier view of the future.Reuse content