The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sour Christmas likely for Hoggard

The season of goodwill, which has been extended to Stuart MacGill following the leg-spinnerís selection for Australiaís squad for the fourth Test, may have turned sour for England fast bowler Matthew Hoggard.

Although Hoggard hopes for a return after spending a fortnight working on his bowling, his tour record of one wicket for 248 runs in two Tests, means it would be based on faith rather than form.

While MacGill can celebrate his call-up for the match starting Wednesday, it will be an uneasy Christmas for Hoggard, who will also be on tenterhooks over the World Cup squad, to be named by the end of this year.

ďIíll be apprehensive but, hopefully, itíll be a happy Christmas if I get my Test place back and make the World Cup squad,Ē Hoggard said, before adding, with an enigmatic smile: ďI donít know if itíll happen, Iíve not heard from the management for a while.Ē

After taking 45 wickets in nine Tests, it was Hoggardís lack of wickets in his next two that saw him dropped for the third Test in Perth. Like the other Test players deemed surplus to one-day requirements, Hoggard remained there like a castaway, rebuilding his action, though not, as team management claimed, his confidence.

In his column for the BBCís website, Hoggard said that he had not lost confidence and that he had been made a scapegoat for Englandís woeful performances. On Sunday, he claimed the words had been put into his mouth.

ďThe point I was trying to make was that everyone was struggling against Australia, not just me and England,Ē Hoggard said. ďThe Aussies are playing out of their skin and I wasnít bowling the best I could. Instead of expecting to take wickets, I was running up and hoping to take them. The management saw fit to drop me and in the long run it may have done me good.Ē

Hoggardís problems stem from being too predictable when the ball does not swing. On true Australian pitches, he has been cannon fodder, his whippy, round-arm action unable to get much bounce.

ďIíve shortened my run-up by four paces and got my rhythm back,Ē Hoggard said. ďAlso, the ballís shaping again and Iím staying taller at the crease so the time spent with [bowling coach] Graham Dilley has worked well. Being dropped was a bit of a shock, though if anything, itís made me even more determined to get back in.Ē

To help facilitate that, England coach Duncan Fletcher has given him a copy of a piece Glenn McGrath wrote about the factors that make him such a good bowler. Although McGrath and the superb Jason Gillespie will be back to torment Englandís batsmen, Shane Warne, having dislocated his shoulder, will not.

Hoggard reckons England will gain a psychological lift from his absence, but then so will MacGill. In the Ashes series here four years ago, MacGill took 27 wickets in four Tests.

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