Hard work now paying off for Hoggard

  • @stephenbrenkley

A hat-trick of the highest calibre before a euphoric crowd at one of the world's most romantic grounds was not necessarily at the top of Matthew Hoggard's wish list for England's triumphant tour of the West Indies. "I didn't think I was going to come on the trip and I didn't think I would have played in the first game," he said the morning after England's eight-wicket win at the Kensington Oval which secured a 3-0 lead in the series.

Hoggard began the latest West Indian rout on Saturday by dismissing numbers four, five and six in their order with an impeccable exhibition of clinically accurate swing bowling, and yesterday revealed the unlikely part played by a chance meeting with a Leeds fitness trainer in a Colombo gym late last year.

It was the most emphatic manner in which to complete a circle. Barely a year ago, Hoggard was the leader-in-waiting of England's attack, but no sooner was the 2003 season under way than he sustained a knee injury. Recalled by England for the first part of their winter tours, he was dropped for the last two matches in Sri Lanka, where the pitches did not complement his style. Younger guns had overtaken him.

But England's coach, Duncan Fletcher, had long ago recognised that his willing approach and capacity for work were not to be despatched lightly. Hoggard has been given the new ball in the Caribbean and Michael Vaughan described him yesterday as the engine of his attack.

Hoggard, Yorkshire to his boots, had another way of putting it. "My job description on this tour has involved not going for any runs at one end," he said. "As Vaughany has put it, I'm on the shop floor doing the hard work while the others are upstairs in the office taking the wickets. Wickets are bonuses."

And what a handsome dividend it was. Hoggard changed out of the blue overalls and into morning dress in the space of three lovely deliveries. Keeping the ball up to the bat, he had Ramnarash Sarwan and Ryan Hinds caught in the slips and Shivnarine Chanderpaul patently leg-before to reduce West Indies to 45-5. He admitted that only Chanderpaul's wicket was the result of precise swing, but the accuracy and the length were still those of a top-class bowler.

As the 10th England bowler to take a hat-trick and the first since Darren Gough, who sent him a text message, Hoggard embodies the hard work that Vaughan insists on from his squad. He was in Sri Lanka when he met Gary Simpson, a former rugby league player from Leeds, who was on holiday with his family.

"He was taking up most of the gym, we got talking and he said that if I want to start training I should give him a call," Hoggard explained. "It's all very well going to the gym but it's different having someone pushing you and making it fun."

Hoggard has taken one other hat-trick, for Pudsey Congregational thirds in the Dales Council League, when he was 14. It was not quite the same as for England in Bridgetown another 14 years on.


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