Injury concerns over captain overshadow Hoggard heroics

Ashes 2nd Test Day 4, England 551-6 dec & 59-1 Australia 513
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A tired but contented Matthew Hoggard led England off at the Adelaide Oval after taking the third seven-wicket haul of his Test career. His corner of the visitors' changing room, when Australia were finally bowled out for 513, would have been a far more relaxed place than that of Andrew Flintoff, who appears to have aggravated the ankle injury that caused him to miss half of last summer's cricket.

The discomfort in the captain's left ankle is a huge concern. The England management are saying that they are not too worried and that the discomfort is typical of a bowler who has spent two days in the field. What rubbish. I bet Hoggard's left ankle was not sore when he returned to the changing room and my ankles were seldom sore either. My right hip was occasionally, but that was because I had a problem with it.

If Flintoff was not suffering, then why on earth did he bowl only four overs as Australia threatened to put England under huge pressure? Unless he was told not to, he must surely have bowled during an afternoon session in which Michael Clarke and Shane Warne added 118 crucial runs.

Hoggard's final figures of 7 for 109 were not as impressive as those he produced in Christchurch and Johannesburg but he can have rarely, if ever, bowled better for England. On the flattest of pitches and against the finest batting side in the world, Hoggard showed what a high-class performer he is.

But despite Hoggard's heroics, there remains a burning question that faces England as they fight to retain the Ashes: is this bowling line-up capable of taking 20 Australian wickets? By now this question may have been answered, but if England were to have miraculously bowled Australia out this morning it is likely to have been more down to Ricky Ponting's side recklessly chasing a target than the skill of the visitors' bowlers.

On what we have seen in the opening two Tests of the series, it appears unlikely that England have the firepower to bowl their opponents out twice. Australia eased past the follow-on target of 352 on the fourth morning and had reached 500 for the second consecutive Test. In the hosts' only other innings, the second in Brisbane, they posted 202 for 1. In three innings, Australia have so far amassed 1,317 runs for the loss of just 20 wickets. And it has taken Flintoff's attack 367 overs to force those 20 errors. These are hardly Ashes-winning statistics.

England are unlikely to encounter another pitch with as little in it for the bowlers as this, but they failed to help themselves by leaving Monty Panesar out. Ashley Giles provided minimal threat and James Anderson, the bowler who should have made way for Panesar, bowled only 16 of the first 124 overs in Australia's innings.

Panesar would probably not have won the Test for England, but how Flintoff could have done with his left-arm spin as he tried to eke out Australia's middle and lower order. England's plight has not been helped by the fitness of their bowlers coming into the series but, again, these problems are self-inflicted. Stephen Harmison, Flintoff, Giles and Anderson all finished the English summer injured or recovering from injury and, despite what the England management say, they are all short of match practice.

Harmison remains England's deadliest weapon. His bowling here is much improved from Brisbane - which was not too hard - but he is not intimidating the Australian batsmen as he did last year and is conceding more than four runs an over. Perth, the venue of the third Test, should offer him greater assistance but a great deal of hard work will need to take place before he walks out there.

Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, is a cautious man by nature, as has been shown by the omission of Panesar. It is not a tactic that is going to win in Australia. England need to take Australia on if they are going to keep hold of the little urn. The batsmen have done it and the bowlers must too.

Clarke and Adam Gilchrist saw Australia past the follow-on with the minimum of fuss and, once the goal had been achieved, the impetus of the game changed. Gilchrist chose to attack and he looked set for a big score until he slogged Giles to deep midwicket.

Warne joined Clarke and the run rate slowed but England's bowlers continued to struggle to make an impression. It led Geraint Jones and Paul Collingwood to try a different tactic - sledging Warne. Collingwood could feel confident in confronting the world's highest wicket-taker following his double hundred here, but Jones is not on firm ground, especially after his father sent a letter to a Brisbane newspaper criticising Warne.

The exchange had little effect on Warne, who showed great resolve against Giles' negative tactic of bowling over the wicket and down the leg-side. The leg-spinner had moved unerringly to 43 when an underused Hoggard trapped him in front. Warne did not appear very happy with the umpire's decision and left the field shaking his head. Television replays revealed that the ball had flicked his bat before striking pad, but there have been many worse decisions given.

The dismissal gave Hoggard his seventh five-wicket haul in Test cricket and his first in 11 matches. The 29-year-old's next wicket came eight balls later when Clarke heaved a slog at the seamer to Giles at midwicket. Clarke batted beautifully for his 124, showing calmness and skill in a high-pressure situation. The 25-year-old was viewed as the next great thing when he scored 151 on his debut in Bangalore two years ago. He struck 141 in his first home Test too, but was dropped from the Australian side a year ago.

Shane Watson's hamstring injury gave the New South Welshman the chance to re-establish himself in the team at Brisbane and this hundred will have guaranteed him selection for the third Test in Perth. If Australia are to drop a batsman for the all-rounder Watson, Damien Martyn looks set to be the casualty.

The dismissal of Clarke gave Hoggard his 230th Test wicket and moved him above Darren Gough, his former Yorkshire team-mate, and in to eighth place in England's all-time list.

Hoggard moved one closer to Andy Caddick when he bowled Stuart Clark. Hoggard needs three further wickets to overtake his former team-mate, who happened to be the last England bowler to take a seven-wicket haul in Australia, and passing Caddick would give him great pleasure. Hoggard has never been a huge fan of the New Zealand-born seamer. Hoggard will then close in on the greats of the game, the Bedsers, Stathams, Underwoods and Truemans. He deserves to.


England won toss

England - First Innings 551-6 dec (P D Collingwood 206, K P Pietersen 158, I R Bell 60).

Australia - First Innings

(Overnight: 312 for 5)

M J Clarke c Giles b Hoggard 124

320 min, 224 balls, 10 fours

ÝA C Gilchrist c Bell b Giles 64

112 min, 79 balls, 8 fours

S K Warne lbw b Hoggard 43

157 min, 108 balls, 4 fours

B Lee not out 7

47 min, 33 balls

S R Clark b Hoggard 0

8 min, 7 balls

G D McGrath c Jones b Anderson 1

25 min, 21 balls

Extras (b4 lb2 w1 nb7) 14

Total (719 min, 165.3 overs) 513

Fall: 1-8 (Langer), 2-35 (Hayden), 3-65 (Martyn), 4-257 (Ponting), 5-286 (Hussey), 6-384 (Gilchrist), 7-502 (Warne), 8-505 (Clarke), 9-507 (Clark), 10-513 (McGrath).

Bowling: Hoggard 42-6-109-7 (14-2-30-2; 2-0-5-0; 3-0-10-0; 13-2-41-2; 10-2-23-3); Flintoff 26-5-82-1 (nb5) (7-1-26-1; 4-2-6-0; 2-0-12-0; 3-1-7-0; 3-0-11-0; 7-1-20-0); Harmison 25-5-96-0 (nb2, w1) (6-2-28-0; 6-2-14-0; 1-0-4-0; 4-0-27-0; 3-0-10-0; 5-1-13-0); Anderson 21.3-3-85-1 (8-1-24-0; 6-1-25-0; 2-0-16-0; 5-1-19-0; 0.3-0-1-1); Giles 42-7-103-1 (12-1-37-0; 4-1-8-0; 5-1-18-1; 21-4-40-0); Pietersen 9-0-32-0 (4-0-12-0; 5-0-20-0).

Progress: Second day close: 28-1 (Hayden 12, Ponting 11) 9 overs. Third day: 50: 73 min, 15.4 overs. 100: 16.1 overs, 34.4 overs. Lunch: 105-3 (Ponting 57, Hussey 13) 35 overs. 150: 225 min, 50 overs. Tea: 185-3 (Ponting 101, Hussey 49) 63 overs. 200: 297 min, 67.1 overs. 250: 353 min, 81.1 overs. New ball taken after 82 overs at 253-3. 300: 417 min, 94 overs. Close: 312-5 (Clarke 30, Gilchrist 13) 97 overs. Fourth day: 350: 490 min, 110.1 overs. 400: 536 min, 119.3 overs. Lunch: 417-6 (Clarke 68, Warne 12) 124 overs. 450: 609 min, 139.1 overs. 500: 671 min, 153.4 overs. Tea: 502-7 (Clarke 121) 153.5 overs. Innings closed 4.47pm.

England - Second Innings

A J Strauss not out 31

82 min, 50 balls, 3 fours

A N Cook c Gilchrist b Clark 9

48 min, 35 balls, 1 four

I R Bell not out 18

33 min, 29 balls, 2 fours

Extras (lb1) 1

Total (for 1, 82 min, 19 overs) 59

Fall: 1-31 (Cook).

To bat: P D Collingwood, K P Pietersen, *A Flintoff, ÝG O Jones, A F Giles, M J Hoggard, S J Harmison, J M Anderson.

Bowling: Lee 5-1-13-0; McGrath 4-1-12-0; Warne 5-1-20-0; Clark 5-2-13-1 (one spell each).

Progress: Fourth day: 50: 67 min, 15.2 overs.

Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and R E Koertzen (SA). TV replay umpire: S J Davis. Match referee: J J Crowe (NZ).

Fourth Day: How They Rated


MATTHEW HOGGARD: Another top day for a great competitor. 9

ANDREW FLINTOFF: No Freddie, no chance. 2

STEPHEN HARMISON: Continues to be very inconsistent. 4

JAMES ANDERSON: Wicket of Glenn McGrath. So what. 3


MICHAEL CLARKE: Australia's future looks in good hands. 9

ADAM GILCHRIST: Performed a bit more like his old self, unfortunately for England. 7

SHANE WARNE: 3,000 Test runs - he can be classed as an all-rounder. 6

Shot of the Day

* Adam Gilchrist has had a lean time against England but he seemed destined for a big score when he twice drove Stephen Harmison through the covers for four in the same over. The strokes were identical and beautiful.

Ball of the Day

* Ashley Giles versus Shane Warne? It appears a no-contest, but Giles turned one sharply out of the rough to Warne and it clipped the shoulder of his bat and lobbed towards first slip. Sadly, for England, there was no fielder there.

Debate of the Day

* Can England take 20 wickets in a Test in Australia? On what we have seen so far, not likely. And this is with Flintoff. Without him it would seem impossible. By getting a big score on a more helpful pitch they have a chance. But in these conditions can they outbowl Australia?

Moment of the Day

* Matthew Hoggard had been steaming in under a hot sun for several overs, searching for his fifth wicket, and when it came his face was a picture of joy. Five-wicket hauls are like hundreds, only they don't come around as often, so they should be appreciated. By Angus Fraser