Hoggard: Anderson, Broad doing great but ECB needs to look for options

Former England bowler Matthew Hoggard believes the time has come for the ECB to start looking for options in the pace bowling department.

In a career spanning eight years, Matthew Hoggard snapped up 248 wickets in 67 Tests at an economy rate of 3.26, flourishing as the senior bowler of an England side that went unbeaten in 2004.   -  Getty Images

Former England cricketer Matthew Hoggard, in his prime, forged a formidable new-ball partnership with Steve Harmison. In a career spanning eight years, the Yorkshire-born seamer snapped up 248 wickets in 67 Tests at an economy rate of 3.26, flourishing as the senior bowler of an England side that went unbeaten in 2004.

And while England bowlers, James Anderson in particular, continue to pile misery on Indian batsmen, Hoggard believes the time has come for the ECB to start looking for options in the pace bowling department.  

Anderson, 36, and Stuart Broad, 32, have 969 Test wickets (after India's first innings in the ongoing Lord's Test) between them and have been the bedrock of England's success for a long time. But Hoggard feels "everyone's time at the top comes to an end - you don't want it to but it does."

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"They're (England) already looking (for options). When you have two great bowlers like James Anderson and Stuart Broad, their departure will leave a big hole in the side but that's with any country really.

"Australia, for instance, went through a transition phase when Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne called it a day," Hoggard, now a leading after-dinner speaker, told Sportstar.

About Sam Curran's inspiring four-wicket haul (four for 71) at Edgbaston which saw England go 1-0 up in the series, Hoggard said, "He (Sam) gets the ball to swing late. He's quite skiddy too, so no wonder he had a massive impact on the game.

"Curran’s left-arm angle is different from other bowlers and he's also got this 'go get them' attitude which obviously helps."

Sam, younger brother of England international Tom Curran, is 5 ft 9 in tall and is not the conventional big fast bowler. Hoggard, however, feels that lack of height shouldn't prevent the 20-year-old from working his charm with the ball.

"Darren Gough too was very short (smirks)! Take India's Mohammed Shami for instance - he's not very tall either, is he? Look, Curran will be effective when the ball's moving around and bowling left-arm over the wicket will also hold him in good stead," he said.

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Talk about Sam's feat soon veered to dearth of left-arm fast bowlers in England's 141-year-old cricket history. Since the turn of the century, only three left-armers have donned the Test whites for England — Ryan Sidebottom (22 Tests), Allan Mullally (two) and Sam (two).

Asked why this was the case, Hoggard replied, "I don't think it's a conscious choice to pick right-armers. You can only pick who's performing. If you look around county cricket, left-armers who've played for England (recently) would be Reece Topley and Harry Gurney [Both have earned ODI caps]. There aren't too many of them around."

England's spin bowling, too, has been a concern, with the Three Lions struggling to find a specialist spinner since off-spinner Graeme Swann's retirement in 2013.

All-rounder Moeen Ali has been England's front-line spin option lately, with the selectors including leg-spinner Adil Rashid in the squad for the first Test. This triggered several debates, focusing largely on Rashid quitting red-ball cricket ahead of the 2018 county season and not playing a first-class game since September.

"We've taken steps in county cricket to ensure the pitches are better for batting and dry to start with so that the spinners could come into play more and more," Hoggard said before adding a caveat.

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"But in the main part of the summer, we concentrate on T20s and ODIs rather than four-day cricket - that hinders the development of our spinners.

"If you look, every country has a cycle where they have great batters or great fast bowlers coming out, while England has cried out for two or three quality spinners to come along.

"You can't expect a spinner to spring up in a year's time; spinners usually mature in their late 20s or early 30s."