Hoggard embodies England frailties in Australian eyes

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The Independent Online

The Australians would have been watching. From their hotel rooms in Ashford, Kent, Ricky Ponting's squad would have stretched out on their beds, switched on the television and given "The Poms" the once-over.

The Australians would have been watching. From their hotel rooms in Ashford, Kent, Ricky Ponting's squad would have stretched out on their beds, switched on the television and given "The Poms" the once-over.

During the 16 minutes it took England to wrap up the win the world champions would have found it hard to gauge the progress made by Michael Vaughan's side in the last 18 months. Matthew Hoggard completed an emphatic victory by claiming the last two Bangladesh wickets, but Australia will have noticed that the weakest team in Test cricket had scored 316 on a pitch offering assistance to the seamers.

"I was a bit disappointed that we didn't win the game in two days because that was the goal we set ourselves on Saturday morning," Vaughan admitted. "We went chasing wickets, rather than sticking to our disciplines, but we can allow the bowlers a bit of leeway when you are trying to win a game in two days.

"But overall it all went to plan and I thought we were very professional over the two games. We played some good stuff, even though the standard of the opposition was not as high as we expected. Our top five batsmen all spent time in the middle and the bowlers got some miles in their legs. It was disappointing that Andrew Flintoff and Geraint Jones didn't get a knock, but we will try to rectify that over the next four weeks by giving them plenty of practice."

Hoggard's pair gave him his fifth five-wicket haul in Test cricket and took his match tally to eight. Yet it was a surprise to see Sky's commentary team give him the man of the match award.

The Yorkshire seamer admitted as much when he said that Ian Bell, who scored an unbeaten 162, had been robbed. Hoggard took 14 wickets in two Tests against Bangladesh, but his bowling was indifferent. The 28-year-old has developed a no-ball problem and it is affecting his rhythm and confidence. If he were to bowl against Australia as he has in this series his figures would be far less flattering.

Hoggard is aware of the work that needs to be done, and he will start on Wednesday in the Roses match at Headingley. Graham Thorpe, Gareth Batty and Bell - the others not selected in the one-day squad - will also return to their counties before the first Test against Australia on 21 July. Most of this period will be spent playing one-day cricket. Twenty20 was not designed to prepare for Tests, but the fact that overstepping in that competition leads to a free hit should encourage Hoggard to keep his size 12s behind the line.

Hoggard has his problems but, according to Peter Roebuck, the former Somerset captain who now works as a journalist in Australia, they are not as significant as Flintoff's. Roebuck, writing in the Melbourne Age , has questioned the legitimacy of Flintoff's bowling action.

Flintoff's action is not the purest - he gets pace from brute strength. But the all-rounder has yet to be reported by an umpire or match referee and when he was filmed during the ICC Champions Trophy in September 2004 his bowling arm was shown to straighten by eight to 11 degrees,consistent with most fast bowlers and well below the legal level of 15.

Before the first Test Flintoff will play seven one-day internationals against Australia. England are an ordinary limited-overs side, but Australia are as formidable in this form of the game as they are in Test cricket.

"It is crucial we play well and get some confidence against the Aussies," Vaughan said. "We need to make sure we hit 21 July with the players playing well and the team full of confidence."

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