Perfect 10 puts Hoggy on course for return

Last updated at 23:34 14 June 2007


Matthew Hoggard declared himself fighting fit for an England comeback after a short, sharp

warm-up yesterday, and insisted that his experience will more than make up for a

lack of match practice.

The 30-year-old seamer is all but

certain to return to the attack for

the fourth npower Test against the

West Indies at Chester-le-Street,

starting tomorrow, after taking a

wicket and coming through a

10-over spell unscathed in

Yorkshire’s Friends Provident

Trophy win over Northants.

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Matthew Hoggard, Northants

Having missed the last two

matches with a groin injury,

Hoggard bowled three separate

spells at full throttle and felt his

rhythm was good from the off.

He claimed the wicket of Usman

Afzaal, for 132, after nearly having

the left-hander caught behind on

22. His last over — right at the end

of the innings — went for 13 runs,

but he was satisfied that he had

exhibited decent control after

almost four weeks out of competitive action.

Most importantly for Hoggard, as

he prepares to take over from Liam

Plunkett in the England side at the

Riverside, was the fact that he

experienced no trace of discomfort.

"I felt fine out there," he said.

"There was no soreness, my groin

held up well and my legs felt good.

The ball went in the right areas more often than not. At the death

of the innings anything goes, so I

won’t take too much notice of that.

"But in my first five or six overs I

didn’t bowl any wides, I didn’t bowl

any no-balls, I didn’t bowl any halfvolleys

really, so I was quite happy.

"This was as much of a test of the

injury as anything. If you can get

through 10 overs in three spells,

you are fine. I can’t feel it now and

if I wake up tomorrow feeling painfree

then there’s been no reaction."

The veteran of 63 Tests and an

Ashes triumph is certainly being

rushed back into the Test team

with a degree of urgency.

Hoggard

admitted that, in an ideal world, he

would bowl more competitive

overs first but was adamant that

he had been around long enough to

handle the situation.

"The only issue is going into the

game without a lot of match

practice, but now that I’m an old

head I should be able to close my

eyes and wang it down in roughly

the right spot," he said.

"It would have been nice to have a

bit more match practice but I want

to play in the Test. I’m happy with

the way the ball is coming out, so

it’s not as if I’m coming back

feeling like a bag of spanners."

Hoggard’s comfortable return sets

up the prospect of him operating in

tandem with his former Yorkshire

team-mate Ryan Sidebottom again.

"He has done really well and we

can roll back the years," said

Hoggard. "It’s been a while since

I’ve opened the bowling with him

but I’m sure we’ll enjoy it."

Before yesterday, Hoggard had

not bowled in a match since breaking

down during the first Test at

Lord’s last month.

He had intended

to make a low-key comeback for his

club, Baildon, the weekend before

the match at Old Trafford but was

forced to abort the plan after the

pain persisted.

While England were laying the

foundations last week for their

series-clinching victory, Hoggard

continued his recovery by bowling

four overs at the National Cricket

Centre in Loughborough.

He linked

up with his Test team-mates,

bowling six overs on Saturday and

a further 10 on Monday, building up

to 100 per cent pace and intensity.

Hoggard has been included in a

12-man squad for the series finale

in place of Plunkett.

James Anderson was again

placed on standby in the event of

any hitches, but now it appears

that the Lancastrian will be

released to return to his county for

their championship match against

Kent, starting tomorrow.

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