Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Hoggard and Harmison unceremoniously dumped

After their abject humiliation in the first Test, England had to make changes. The surprise is not the axing of Steve Harmison, who has much to do if he is to play another Test. It is the decision to drop Matthew Hoggard, who has proved his great skill and heart since last being dropped, in December 2003.

Some see this as simply absurd. Harmison is being dropped for three bad years; Hoggard, seemingly, for one bad game. However, such thinking is a gross exaggeration. For Hoggard, who once played 40 consecutive Tests, has recently been injured with alarming regularity. Moreover, his performances are not what they once were. He was wayward in the extreme in the first Test, and may have lost that imperceptible attribute - 'nip' - which is so crucial at Test level.

In his last 12 Tests, stretching back to July 2006, Hoggard has taken 31 wickets at an average of 41. While dropping him appears harsh, the problem is more with who is replacing him - James Anderson, fresh from a mauling in the ODI series and 2-95 for Auckland, and averaging 40 after 20 Tests. A better replacement would have been Charlie Shreck, who is faring excellently for Wellington and, unlike both Anderson and Hoggard, is on fine form and has been bowling plenty of first-class overs of late.

At 31, Hoggard may not have much international cricket left, but, with the goodwill he has earned from a career of relentless dedication, English fans will be willing him on to get back to his best and prove a Test force once more. With Harmison, alas, it seems everyone has long since given up.


Rob said...

I was disappointed they did not drop a batsman (or two). I don't think it matters which, they have all, with the exception of Bell, played poorly. its a fair reaction to say 'oh no, you would have to keep Collingwood/Cook/Pietersen/Strauss' but I honestly don't think it would matter and it may make them a bit hungrier. Between them they have managed two scores of 110 or less in four innings -- how much worse could they get?

Richard Lake said...

We lost the last test because of the 470 that we allowed NZ to get. Also, it's worth comparing the speed at which NZ were allowed to get their runs with England. We batted for much longer than they did but their bowling had the discipline to not allow us to score while we were doing it. Sidebottom, Martin and Mill showed that it was possible for bowlers to get success out of the Hamilton wicket. No batsman (including Ross Taylor) showed that batting was anything other than a bit of a struggle against decent bowling.

That said, I would think that all of the batsmen realise that they need a decent score. All of them got a start and occupied the crease, but never looked comfortable - which is probably another reason for keeping them en bloc.

Hoggard has been harshly treated. I'm surprised at the figures Tim gave, because remembering back to the first test in SL, it was his initial burst that put us on top in the first test. However, he will be back. This could well be the end of Harmison though and I wouldn't be surprised if he leaves the tour before the end.

Tim said...

I too would have liked Strauss dropped, but I never remotely thought it would happen.

Agreed to some extent Richard - although you could flip it round and say NZ (especially McCullum in the first innings) imposed themselves on the attack in a way that England never did. They just allowed themselves to be bowled at.

Rob said...

I don't think the 470 lost us the test -- it certainly meant it was going to be difficult to win. We lost because we made 110 on a flat wicket on the last day.

Chrispy said...

Correct call on Broad for Harmi. Should be left to establish himself for the forseeable future.

Bad call on Hoggy. He hasn't been sublime but at least it always looks as though he is trying unlike some. And with the strong breeze from one end at this ground we need a workhorse who will bowl into it. Sorry Ryan looks like you have landed that one, cos the others certainly will not fancy it!

And madness to recall Strauss. They wanted him in the team so badly that they actually dropped a batsman who had top scored in the warm up game (with a nigh 100) so that he could not do well again in the last warm up and so they could continue to show blind faith in Straussy. Don't bowl short and wide and he is essentially stuffed 90% of the time. The opposition bowlers have learnt that, when will the England management. nd with Vettori and Patel in that first test who better than Shah to add to England's ability to play spin and up the anti a little. Hope both Hoggy and Shah are there for number 3, just hope it will not be too late. Long term, prehaps Hoggy will be usurped by Tremlett, with Sidebottom providing the swing.

Richard Lake said...

Credit where it's due to the selectors. Jimmy bowled beautifully and deserves a run in the team now.

We're going to have to disagree about the 470, Rob. To my mind that was the only time that batting looked comfortable and it made the pitch look easier to bat on than it really was.

Cricketahead said...

They should have dropped a batsmen as they have done with the bowler.