Big Interview: Aussie woe still rankles with Matthew Hoggard
The first Test of this Ashes series did not go how England would have liked – and Matthew Hoggard can empathise with that.
Hoggy’s success against the Aussies is well-documented. The former swing bowler was an integral part of the side that captured the hearts of the nation in 2005, beating the might of the likes of Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting as England secured the urn for the first time since 1986-87.
The Yorkshireman was very solid in that series, contributing nine wickets at Trent Bridge and The Oval and even chipping with the bat – scoring eight not out with Ashley Giles to clinch the fourth Test and a 2-1 lead.
But something Hoggard very much regrets is failing to compete Down Under.
He had a hugely fruitful Test career – managing 67 matches in total – but his two series in Australia are not ones he looks back on with fondness.
In the 2006-07 series, England did not come close to building on the momentum from 2005 as they succumbed to a 5-0 whitewash.
And in 2002-03, they were beaten 4-1.
On the jubilation of the 2005 series and the massive disappointment of 2006-07, a humble Hoggard said: “It is 12 years ago now and there have been some fantastic series after that – I think generations move forward and it is very quickly forgotten.
“I was lucky to be involved in that fantastic series but going to Australia and winning is something I never did.
“Alastair Cook has been there and done it, Jimmy Anderson has.
“To win the Ashes series in Australia is something that I regret we never did.
“We didn’t even compete in Australia, the Ashes series I went over there.”
England collapsed twice as they lost the first Test of this series in Brisbane. The second Test started in Adelaide this morning.
Showing incredible foresight, Hoggard assessed the state of England and Australia ahead of the series.
“I think the Australians are going to come at us very hard, with some very good pace bowlers,” he said.
“We are still very fragile at number two and number three, but we’ve got a powerhouse in the battling line in Moeen Ali – it’s a very long batting line-up.
“It would be nice to see a competitive series and England will hopefully come out on top.”
A Test career spanning from 2000 until 2008 and a domestic career lasting 17 years – Hoggard did well for himself.
In fact, in 2015, statistician Andrew Samson calculated Hoggy was England’s best Test bowler in terms of the batting average of the batsmen he dismissed in his career.
His cricket journey started at Bradford League club Pudsey Congs. Speaking at the home of Staffs Clubs Championship outfit Rugeley, he reminisced about his early days in the sport.
“When you grow up you have dreams of being an astronaut, or a brain surgeon,” said Hoggard. “Whatever it is, you always have a dream.
“I was lucky to live not too far away from my cricket club so I could walk there.
“I have loved cricket ever since I could pick up a ball and a bat.
“It’s always nice to come to local clubs, cricket grounds where there is only one entrance.
“Pudsey is where I started my cricket and I have still got friends from my time there.
“Cricket is a small world. You can travel all around the world, which has been good for me, but you still have friendships from 30 years ago – when you played at your local club.”
Hoggard was a clinical bowler, usually taking the new ball in Test matches.
Another man who is ruthless with the ball is James Anderson, who achieved his 500th Test wicket earlier this year.
Hoggy insists it was a pleasure to see Anderson – the man he kept out of the 2005 series – develop into a truly world-class cricketer.
And while the 2015 study found Hoggard to be the best, the 40-year-old feels Jimmy is the greatest bowler England has ever produced.
He said: “The way he swings it in and out – with no discernible difference in his action – sets him out from a lot of bowlers.
“I think that is why he has got so many wickets – his consistency and unerring accuracy with both outswing and inswing. He is the best bowler that England have ever had.”
Hoggard played his final Test at the age of 31 while, at 35, Anderson is showing no signs of letting up.
He said a few months ago there is no reason why he cannot play into his 40s.
When asked how long the Burnley-born bowler can continue, Hoggy said: “I don’t know, how long is a piece of string?
“There was worries about his fitness levels at one point, but he keeps going from strength to strength.
“It was quite nice to see the transformation from his teens – a grumpy, sullenness stage to a grown-up, grumpy, sullenness stage. It was fantastic watch and what a skilful bowler he is.”
After retiring from international cricket, Hoggard enjoyed more success on the domestic stage.
Following a 13-year spell at Yorkshire, he moved to Leicestershire.
He rowed with chairman Neil Davidson in his first season, which he ended with an impressive 50 first-class wickets.
And, under his leadership, they won the Twenty 20 Cup in 2011 – before he retired, aged 36, two years later. Worcestershire’s Daryl Mitchell was his last victim in first-class cricket. Hoggy admits he was unsure of what he wanted to do post-retirement, but things seem to have worked out pretty well for him.
In May, he took up an assistant coach role at Women’s Super League club Loughborough Lightning and said in an interview that it is ‘so much easier than coaching men who think they know it all’.
He is also studying for a masters degree in sports directorship at the University of Salford.
“I’ve got back into cricket – coaching Loughborough Lightning Ladies, which is very good,” said Hoggard. “I’m going back to university and doing a masters in sports directorship, up in Salford. I do a bit of after-dinner speaking, play for the PCA Masters – jack of all trades, master of fairly little at the moment.
“When you retire from cricket, it’s just like finishing school – you don’t know what you want to do, you don’t know what direction work is going to take you.
“I’ve got fingers in plenty of pies. I’m excited to see what the future brings – getting that sports directorship, two-year course – and seeing where life takes me after that.”
Overall, while regretting a failure to compete Down Under, Hoggard enjoyed a stellar career.
He took 248 Test wickets – a bowling average of 30.50 – and scored 473 runs.
On what is stand-out memory is from it all, he added: “It’s very hard to pick out highlights but people that have watched a lot more cricket than I have always say that 2005 was one of the best, if not the best, Ashes series – the ebbs and flows, the twists and rollercoaster ride that it was. It captured the nation and everyone was talking about it.
“It’s one of those things which I think will stand in my memory until I die.”