Hoggard searches for the edge

New Zealand tour: Toiling pace bowler finds his confidence ebbing as Kiwis dig in
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The Independent Online

A permanent pitch, rather than the drop-in one scheduled for Wednesday, defeated England's attempts to bowl Canterbury out for a second time and go into the First Test with a win in the bag. Yet to capture just two wickets in 73 overs, after declaring 200 runs ahead, suggests a bowling attack about to march on Rome high on fatigue and low on venom.

As in the first innings, only Andrew Caddick posed a regular threat and even he bowled a yard short of the optimum. With the Kookaburras' propensity to go soft, Nasser Hussain stressed the importance of not wasting the new ball. Caddick's length in Canterbury's second innings meant he beat the bat by inches (no good on a helpful pitch) rather than finding the edge as he might have done had the ball been pitched further up.

Yet Caddick has at least rekindled his confidence, something Matthew Hoggard has not managed since swinging the white ball round corners in the one-day series. The fault may not be entirely his. Lacking rhythm, Hoggard wanted to play in Queenstown but found himself rested in favour of the now infamously porcine James Ormond. At 25, and after five Tests, Hoggard remains inexperienced. He shapes his stock ball away from right-handers but has a low arm action that increases predictability. Against batsmen playing shots, like Sachin Tendulkar, he is a threat, but the Kiwis will have to be winkled out and that will require more than one trick if the ball is not swinging.

Evidence of this was particularly thick on the ground yesterday, when Canterbury's dour opening batsmen took root. Although Shanan Stewart was dropped in the gully on nought by Ashley Giles off Caddick, neither he nor Robbie Frew were unduly troubled by Hoggard, or indeed anyone but Caddick, until Stewart carelessly hooked Craig White down Giles' throat at deep backward square.

Getting the kind of steepling bounce the others could only dream of, Caddick's niggardly 12 overs brought to mind a comment once made by Graham Gooch about playing New Zealand at Lord's with Richard Hadlee bowling under a glowering sky from the Pavilion end. Beaten time and again by Hadlee, while scoring freely at the other end, Gooch likened the experience to facing "the World XI one end and Ilford seconds the other". Word got out, and New Zealand had T-shirts made depicting the unwise words after winning the series 1-0.

If the single-barrel nature of England's bowling is a worry for Hussain, the batting of Michael Vaughan will have brought some relief. "Michael has been a fine player for a long time and is a special prospect for the present as well as the future," said Hussain, who also benefited from a lengthy stay at the crease.

Although much shorter than tours of old, the sheer amount of pressure cricket means players are mentally jaded more often than in the past. Physical fatigue is also a problem, and Andrew Flintoff's brief spell of six overs was not meant to protect his sore knee, simply to go gentle on him just before a Test.

Giles' spin also got a long workout, though on a pitch that had taken some turn the previous day, fewer than half-a-dozen balls bit. When the New Zealand selectors announced their squad, Hadlee, the chairman of selectors, had said he did not expect the Test pitch to turn, which might suit Giles with his penchant for bowling into the bowlers' footholes.

Frustrated by what he saw as intransigence on the part of the umpires concerning lbw decisions – there were several occasions when England bowlers displayed their displeasure by adopting the full hands-on-hips teapot – Giles eventually bowled into the rough. It proved a shrewd move and with Frew by now exercising more than two strokes, it brought belated success when Giles had the opener bowled round his legs sweeping for 72.

A final spell for Hoggard did not provide a confidence-boosting wicket and may have had the opposite effect as the chunky Michael Papps pulled and drove him for boundaries. But Hoggard is a phlegmatic soul, and when play was mercifully called off 40 minutes early, he simply plodded off as he always does, a tireless trier in need of one lucky break.

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