An era came to an end when Matthew Hoggard and Stephen Harmison were omitted from England's side for the second Test against New Zealand, which started here last night. It was the first time either fast bowler has been dropped from the Test side since England regained the Ashes in 2005.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad replaced Hoggard and Harmison, joining Ryan Sidebottom and Monty Panesar in the bowling line-up. Axing two bowlers with a combined total of 460 Test wickets was a bold decision because it left England with a relatively young and inexperienced attack.
However, Hoggard and Harmison could have few complaints. The bowling of the pair was poor during England's 189-run defeat in the first Test. Each was underprepared, as match figures of 2 for 272 in 65 uninspiring overs highlighted.
"They were two tough decisions but we had a gut feeling that we needed to make a change," said Michael Vaughan, the England captain. "We feel that our bowling attack needed a bit of a shake-up and we have made the two changes. It is a great opportunity for Jimmy [Anderson] and Broady [Broad] to come in to try to establish themselves at this level. We hope the young lads thrive on the opportunity and put up a good display. We have gone with this and, hopefully, it will be the right decision."
The omission of Harmison, England's 10th-highest Test wicket-taker with 212 victims, was expected. The fast bowler's confidence and form have been low for some time.
But the dropping of Hoggard comes as a surprise. England's sixth-highest Test wicket-taker, with 248 scalps, has struggled for fitness and form since his run of 40 consecutive Test appearances came to an end in Sydney last winter. Injury forced him to miss seven of England's previous 11 Tests and in his last 13 Test appearances he has taken 36 wickets at an average of 39.7. The form of England's younger bowlers may yet give the pair a chance to redeem themselves, but there must be doubts that either will play Test cricket again.
"Matthew and Stephen were not overly delighted when I told them," Vaughan said, "but you don't expect them to be laughing and smiling when they are told they are not in the team. I hope they really fight to try to get their places back, because that will help create a healthier and more competitive environment.
"Dropping them is not a nice thing to do. These are two players who I have basically played my entire Test career with. I really hope they react in a positive fashion. If they don't play next week in Napier, they go back to their counties to try to get back in the Test team through them.
"Leaving Hoggy out was a really hard decision, but in the position I am in they have to be made. It is a gut feeling that Jimmy deserved his opportunity. Jimmy has a lot of talent – he was our man of the series against India at the end of last summer. He will be looking to establish himself in the Test team for some time to come."
Angus Fraser and Stephen Brenkley on the second Test at: independent.co.uk/secondtestReuse content