On 11th September 2013, Matthew Hoggard announced his retirement from cricket, the most newsworthy event to ever happen on that particular date. So come the end of this season, he will be a county cricketer no more. A snapshot poll in the 51allout gin parlour showed unanimous fondness and respect for a very fine bowler. And considering how bitter and twisted our colleagues usually are, this was a significant moment.
There are several reasons why Hoggy is widely cherished – and his nickname isn’t one of them. His greatest performance on a cricket field was surely Johannesburg 2005, when he took five (expensive) South African wickets in the first innings and seven cheaper ones in the second; it was that victory and the 2-1 series win that really demonstrated that England were putting together a very, very good team – even if it still included Rob Key. In our minds Hoggard was extremely consistent, being less firebrand than his fast bowling teammates at the time, and his statistics seem to prove this, with his annual average rarely heading much above 30.00. He was regularly described as an English bowler in the traditional style, but he was far from a greentop specialist, as 6/57 in Nagpur testifies.
His batting as nightwatchman was also something to admire, especially as he never seemed particular happy to perform that role (but was even slower trudging off after being dismissed). His mastered forward defensive lunge might not have been pretty, but it was regularly successful and an endorsement of Duncan Fletcher’s view that it was no longer acceptable to be a complete and utter bunny with the bat. England’s last-wicket escapes and wagging tails of the Flower era have their root in Hoggard’s dutiful batting. What’s more, he hit that cover drive for 4 off Brett Lee as the Trent Bridge 2005 Test approached its conclusion.
We’ve said before, and will no doubt say again, that we have never forgiven England for dropping Hoggard after two bad Tests (although since then revelations about his mental health on the tour of New Zealand show there were other factors apart from form), never forgiven England for never recalling him and have never forgiven England for picking Darren Pattinson.
His last appearance for England came at the age of 31. Oddly (or not?), this was the same age that both Flintoff and Harmison last played internationally. Darren Gough managed to squeeze out another year in Tests (more in limited overs). With James Anderson already in his 32nd year, thoughts must turn to how long he has left particularly as he plays all forms of the game and the calendar is more crowded than ever.
Following his exile, he continued to perform well in county cricket, but it was clear that England were moving on with Anderson and Stuart Broad. He took 46 and 48 wickets for Yorkshire, but was then released. In 2010 he captained Leicestershire and captured another 50 wickets, but thereafter his annual haul of wickets have been decreasing (but still at a handy average). His latter career has also seen him begin sideline projects, including a wacky and illuminating autobiography, media appearances and apparently he was on Celebrity Masterchef. But let’s remember him for 248 Test wickets, for a hat-trick in Barbados and for being integral to England’s emergence as one of the best – and most liked (for a while) – teams in the world.