Harmison and Hoggard destined for the scrapheap as last Ashes heroes look to have burned themselves out

By PAUL NEWMAN in Hamilton

Last updated at 20:36 06 March 2008

Three years ago they could do no wrong, earning the acclaim of the cricket world and providing England with attacking options for every occasion.

Now, with three members gone and the other two struggling in New Zealand, the exploits of the exalted bowling unit which won the Ashes has become a hazy memory.

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Not having a ball: Steve Harmison looks miles from his best - for the second winter running

Ashley Giles has retired, Simon Jones is looking to rebuild his injury-ravaged career with Worcestershire, and England are crossing their fingers and hoping that Andrew Flintoff will one day be able to bowl again at full pace.

The crucial question for England now, however, is how long might it be before Steve Harmison and even Matthew Hoggard join them in exile?

It looked a long way from the Oval 2005 to Hamilton on the second day of the first Test as England squandered their chance of taking control of this match and the series.

Most significantly, it was the two remaining Ashes heroes who floundered most as New Zealand were able to score at least a hundred more than they should have on an admittedly flat wicket to reach 470 all out.

Once upon a time Michael Vaughan would have instinctively thrown the ball to either Harmison or Hoggard if he was in desperate need of a breakthrough.

Here he gave Harmison just eight overs in the two sessions that it took England to claim the last four New Zealand wickets and Hoggard a mere five.

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Nightwatchman: England and Yorkshire's Matthew Hoggard

At one stage Paul Collingwood and even Kevin Pietersen looked more attractive bowling options for the captain as New Zealand added a further 188 to their overnight 282 for six.

Both have questions to answer in the rest of this series if they are to keep the flag flying for the Class of 2005.

Hoggard still has credit in the bank but, after a long uninterrupted run in the England side, he has missed seven of the last 11 Tests through injury and has bowled poorly here and at Galle in the final Test against Sri Lanka before Christmas.

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Ryan Sidebottom

Horse for the course: Ryan Sidebottom has become England's Mr Reliable

Seddon Park is renowned for swing but there has been little of it visible in this game, not even for a swing master like Hoggard.

And if it is not swinging he is starting to look like a bowler who has few other options, rather than the clever performer who at his peak taught himself how to take wickets on unresponsive overseas surfaces like this one. Hoggard needs to deliver again for his and England's peace of mind.

For Harmison the picture is far bleaker. This puzzle of a bowler looked as though he might be regaining his form in Sri Lanka, notably when he bowled his heart out on a Colombo wicket even more moribund than this one.

He has regressed in New Zealand to such an extent, however, that England's patience is surely running out.

England cannot keep insisting that Harmison is getting better each time he bowls here. He is not. In this match he has looked completely innocuous, inaccurate and barely above sharp medium pace.

Maybe, deep down, with his fourth child having arrived just before he left for New Zealand, he just does not want it enough anymore. Maybe that is the sub-conscious problem for many of the players who won the Ashes.

But a big decision on Harmison is looming for Vaughan and coach Peter Moores unless he improves rapidly.

How ironic it is that Ryan Sidebottom, the man Duncan Fletcher would not pick because he was not quick enough, has now become the fastest bowler in the England attack, not to mention the most reliable, accurate and penetrative. He is now the horse for every course.

Sidebottom had a bad morning on day two when, by his own admission, he "stupidly tried to push too hard for wickets rather than keep up the pressure on the batsmen" but he returned to take the last two Black Cap wickets in successive balls to end with highly acceptable figures of four for 90.

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ross taylor

No longer just 17: Ross Taylor was inspired to better his lowly Test average

And through all the toil of bowling 34.3 overs Sidebottom was inspired by a red-faced figure in the crowd who knows all about flat pitches.

Arnie Sidebottom, Ryan's dad, played his only Test on a similarly dead surface at Trent Bridge in 1985 and was watching his son bowl for England at length for the first time since he returned to the England team at the start of last summer.

"He's usually a bag of nerves and doesn't like watching me bowl too often," said Sidebottom. "He looked at the highlights on TV most matches last summer rather than watch live and didn't come to Sri Lanka but I think him and mum wanted a holiday.

"They haven't been to New Zealand before. I could see his red face in the crowd and I really wanted to take wickets for him because he has always been very supportive without pushing me too much."


On the front foot: opener Cook

A stand of 148 for the seventh wicket between Ross Taylor and Daniel Vettori left England chasing the game on day two, with Taylor scoring his maiden Test century and the captain falling just 12 short of his third as he continued to show that he is statistically the best number eight ever to play Test cricket.

Taylor, who had played two Tests with minimal success before this, said afterwards that he was inspired by the verbose PA announcer here who said, as he walked to the wicket on the first day, "welcome Ross Taylor, with a Test average of 17..."

It is a great shame that Harmison and co could not have been similarly inspired by the very public revealing of his limitations before now.

England made a steady start in reply but will be approaching the third day a little nervously after Alastair Cook gave away his wicket with a careless pull off Chris Martin and Hoggard completed his miserable day by falling as night-watchman.

His only consolation was that he did not fall for an England record equalling 20th duck in Test cricket. The holder? Michael Atherton...

Harmison by numbers

6 wickets on the pre-Christmas

tour of Sri Lanka from 75.5


10 more Test wickets

taken by Harmison in

2004 than in 2006

and 2007 combined (2004 — 67

wickets; 2006 — 33 wickets;

2007 — 24 wickets).

28 of Harmison's 213 Test

wickets* were taken

in five Tests against

Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

67 wickets taken in 13

matches at 23.92 in

2004, including three

five-wicket hauls.

73.22 bowling average

on his one and

only tour of

South Africa in 2004-05.

Harmison went as the world's No 1

ranked bowler, but took just nine

wickets in five Tests.

763 runs conceded

in Harmison's

last six Tests*.

(*Does not include current Test)

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