Glory day for the honourable, honest worker

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Before yesterday's remarkable events in Barbados Matthew Hoggard had been the un-sexiest of England's quartet of fast bowlers. The Yorkshire seamer had plodded along in his own inimitable way during the first two Tests and claimed the odd crucial wicket. He took the vital wicket of Brian Lara when the West Indies were bowled out for 47 but the limelight was stolen by Stephen Harmison.

Before yesterday's remarkable events in Barbados Matthew Hoggard had been the un-sexiest of England's quartet of fast bowlers. The Yorkshire seamer had plodded along in his own inimitable way during the first two Tests and claimed the odd crucial wicket. He took the vital wicket of Brian Lara when the West Indies were bowled out for 47 but the limelight was stolen by Stephen Harmison.

In Trinidad, and in the first innings here, Harmison, Simon Jones and Andrew Flintoff grabbed the headlines with five-wicket hauls. But it all changed in Hoggard's 11th over from the Joel Garner End here yesterday. He had already claimed the important wicket of Darren Ganga with a perfect away-swinger but nobody expected him to pull off the feat which was to follow.

It is a lot to say that a player deserves a hat-trick but Hoggard's efforts in this series merited reward. Surrounded by bigger, faster and more sensitive bowlers he is often the one who is asked to do the donkey work. Harmison and Jones, England's two quickest bowlers will always want the wind or the slope in their favour and it has been Hoggard's job to try to support them from the other end. This can be a thankless task and Hoggard has performed it admirably.

I have been a fan of Hoggard since the first time I watched him bowl on his Test debut at Lord's in 2000. The seamer failed to take a wicket during England's victory but I was impressed with the way he went about his work.

My admiration grew on England's tour of India in December 2001, when he was asked to lead an inexperienced attack which had been deprived of the services of Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick. Such responsibility would have a detrimental affect on some cricketers but Hoggard rose to the challenge and bowled superbly against a talented batting line-up on flat wickets.

In the heat of Mohali, Ahmedabad and Bangalore he never shirked and did all that his captain, Nasser Hussain, could have asked of him.

Hoggard is not very good at hiding the way he feels and sometimes this has worked against him. You can tell from his body language whether he is happy or down but this does not affect the way he bowls. The 27-year-old is incapable of giving anything less than his all whether playing for Yorkshire or England. Representing both gives him huge pride.

Most bowlers like to chunter at the opposition's batsmen and Hoggard is no different, but seldom do you see any histrionics. He enjoys a good moan and can be stroppy, but this is not because he is a miserable so and so, it is just the mindset of a fast-bowler needs. A happy-go-lucky approach would not get him in the frame of mind for the work ahead.

Hoggard is a simple man. Like all fast-bowlers, he wants to be respected and appreciated, but he does not enjoy or go out looking for the celebrity status that some of his team-mates yearn for. An example came when Hoggard was awarded a special cap to celebrate his 25th appearance for England. Hoggard shyly accepted it, and seemed embarrassed to be the centre of attention. A perfect day for him would consist of a five-wicket haul, a couple of pints and a good walk with his dog.

Hoggard in the past has been dropped in favour of bowlers offering pace rather than perseverance. This is wrong. Every bowling attack needs someone with Hoggard's qualities and I hope this performance ensures he remains in the side. It should.

Comments