Hoggard's pain on day of pleasure

Yorkshire 399 and 109-1 Northamptonshire 402-6 Match drawn
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Anbother day, another fast bowling injury for England. No sooner had Matthew Hoggard, the senior bowler for the First Test despite only having 18 caps, showed some sign of relocatingthe rhythm and swing that were so noticeably absent during the winter than he left the field with stomach pains, caused by a recurrence of the injury he suffered in the first match of the season. He is unlikely to play in today's National League match at Leicester. As for the Test, we will have to wait and see.

It was a worrying end because his fellow seamers at Lord's are as callow and inexperienced a bunch as has been picked in recent times – Steve Harmison, erratic but talented with five caps, James Kirtley, no caps and the unenviable record of having been forced to remodel his action, and Andrew Flintoff, if he is fit or Anthony McGrath, another debutant, if he is not. Even Zimbabwe, depleted and defeated in their past seven Test matches will consider that a friendly attack.

The good news is that Hoggard had started to look threatening. Not quite as of old but a lot closer than in the past nine months. The first couple of overs were ordinary and treated as such by Phil Jaques, but the more he bowled the better he became, and that may be the key. Andy Caddick is a player who needs to bowl to groove his action, develop fitness and find his own tempo and Hoggard may be similar. He definitely improved during his spell as he started hitting the crease with aggression and, importantly, balance. As a result he did not have to compensate for being either rushed or overstretched, so he could focus his concentration 20 yards down the pitch.

It did not stop Jaques from reaching a fine double hundred, however, though a late in-ducker did get him lbw as he shaped to run the ball past cover point. It was a fine dismissal because the Australian "with a British passport" is left-handed. How many more of these passports of convenience can our game accommodate? Whatever the figure, one thing is certain – the higher it is the worse it is for England.

And the same goes for the number of injuries. McGrath, Yorkshire's youngest captain at 27, is an unlikely replacement for Flintoff, a point he himself conceded. "I was totally shocked when I got the call," he said. Lauded as an Under-19 for his technique and style, his career has never really developed, as a first-class average under 30 suggests, so two Championship fifties this season seem little reason for elevation, even if he has taken four wickets with medium-pace wobblers.

"I only bowled last year because we had so many injuries that I had to," McGrath explained, "and this year I was going to bowl mostly in the one-day stuff."

He added: "I've been hitting it well without getting a big score, and only felt happy with my game in the past year but I'd love to play at Lord's. I think being captain has helped me because I can't be wrapped up in my own game, I have a lot more to think about."

In the final session all he had to consider was batting out the desultory final minutes with Yorkshire's third England representative, Michael Vaughan. His 64 not out contained one trademark pull but counted for little as the Northamptonshire bowlers hardly tried. The complete antithesis, in fact, to Hoggard earlier.