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Hoggy: Welcome to My World Matthew Hoggard The quintessential barking-mad Yorkshire cricketer, 'Hoggy's' record-breaking bowling exploits for England allied to his humorous, uniquely oddball yet hugely endearing attitude to sport and life makes this essential reading for all lovers of the game.Matthew Hoggard is the sort of character you find in war films: dependable, dog-loving, salt of the earth and very British.He is the fast bowler who would run in all day, the intelligent, committed team player on the field and the class clown of the England dressing room. He grew up wanting to be a vet, but instead became a pivotal figure in one of the most successful periods English cricket has ever known, culminating in the extraordinary Ashes victory in 2005. His stature in the game was such that he played in 40 consecutive Tests and was ranked as high as No 4 in the world’s best bowlers.Much like the way he plays the game, Hoggy’s book is a laid-back and eccentric, heartwarming yet totally barmy journey through cricket and beyond. If you’re looking for a measured chronological account of a typical cricketer’s career, then look away now. The night that Hoggy arm-wrestled the entire Sri Lankan cricket team, why Dolly Parton is underrated a s a bowling coach, who was Jack the Snipper and what was Andrew Flintoff doing up at 3am in the morning…these and other stories abound, proving there is no other current English sportsman to compare with Hoggy. HOGGY Welcome to My World Dedication (#ulink_c91cefa2-14f2-5b12-893f-c970f80b93a8) To Sarah and Ernie My strength and salvation What you’ll find inside … Title Page (#u9c16bd96-9345-582f-b570-57b6c8eb99a6) Dedication (#ud2be6c59-58ca-5b65-ab91-61c836546454) Fore (#ueafe71c7-1249-539c-830b-bbf46e4af5b9)Paw-word (#ueafe71c7-1249-539c-830b-bbf46e4af5b9) Introduction Thought I’d put this near the start (#uba522444-1640-5fba-a642-afa550a991ab) Chapter 1 - My Family and Other Animals by Matthew ’oggard, aged 8½ (#u7216c0ab-58f8-5319-aa17-3375937c2472) Chapter 2 - Gardens, Gags and Games A few early cricketing lessons (#ue94af202-c20f-5791-84ac-0dd597d32f40) Chapter 3 - Wild and Free Beer and bowling in South Africa (#ubea47d9d-1ff5-56ec-9db4-58172a153a6e) Chapter 4 - England Calling First days of national service, 2000-02 (#uad7dd94e-b548-58c7-90a3-128fee4409c4) Chapter 5 - Meat and Three Veg What goes into a fast bowler’s belly … (#u7d0d576b-e8d4-578d-924d-af9389c9474a) Chapter 6 - Touring and Toiling A series of reality checks with England, 2002-03 (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter 7 - Physical Jerks The pains and strains of keeping fit (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter 8 - Getting Better All the Time The winning streak and the awesome foursome, 2004-05 (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter 9 - Mind Games The stuff that goes on in my head when I’m bowling (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter 10 - Time to Produce The biggest series ever and other more important things, summer 2005 (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter 11 - Drinking for England We do like the occasional pint, you know (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter 12 - Swinging the Balance Life goes on after the Ashes, 2005-06 (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter 13 - A Word from the Wife Sarah’s view from the girls’ gallery (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter 14 - Nightwatchman’s Tales My life as England’s sacrificial lamb (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter 15 - Squashed by the Big Fat Lad The Ashes comedown, 2006-07 (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter 16 - Press-ganged My fun and games with the British media (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter 17 - It’s all Gone Haywire Some very high highs and very low lows, 2007-08 (#litres_trial_promo) Epilogue (#litres_trial_promo)Hog (#litres_trial_promo) What next? (#litres_trial_promo) Index (#litres_trial_promo) Acknowledgements (#litres_trial_promo) Hoggy Stats (#litres_trial_promo) Copyright (#litres_trial_promo) About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) ‘He’s just a bit silly. He rings you up and leaves daft messages and silly noises on your phone. It’s just madness. He’s a good lad though.’ Ashley Giles ‘He gives you it straight. If he thinks you’re a pillock, he’ll tell you. He won’t ask for anything that he wouldn’t do himself, that’s the way he is. Hoggy is Hoggy.’ David Byas, former Yorkshire captain Fore (#ulink_3bf7ef84-089f-5eda-87e5-e07da8b51a5f)Paw-word (#ulink_3bf7ef84-089f-5eda-87e5-e07da8b51a5f) By the HOGGY DOGGIES, BILLY the Doberman and MOLLY the Border Collie BILLY: So what’s all this about, then? MOLLY: Apparently, this is the bit of a book where important people or animals are asked to say nice things about the bloke on the front cover. BILLY: About him? Why I should say nice things about him? All he ever does is shout at me. MOLLY: That’s because you play too rough half the time, Billy, and you don’t do as you’re told. BILLY: Whenever I try to play with you, you don’t give me the time of day. You can be a cantankerous old bitch sometimes. MOLLY: You forget that I’m an old lady. If I was five years younger, I’d still be able to run rings round you. BILLY: Like to see you try. Anyway, I still don’t see why I should be so nice about the bloke. What does he ever do for us? MOLLY: He takes us for lots of long walks. BILLY: I’ll give him that. MOLLY: Even when it’s raining. And he feeds us most of the time. BILLY: Well, yes, you’ve got a point. Sometimes I want to bite him, but I’m worried that the walks and the food might stop if I do. Shall we gang up on him and both bite him? MOLLY: He’s in charge, Billy boy, whether we like it or not. BILLY: But if he’s so tough and reckons he’s top dog, why does he always send me outside first if he hears a noise in the garden? I can never understand that. MOLLY: Strange creatures, these humans, Billy. I’m still trying to work them out. BILLY: They must be strange if they want to read a book about him. What’s so interesting about him? MOLLY: Apparently he’s quite good at some weird game they play. They throw a red ball, someone hits it and they chase it around a field. It goes on for hours. BILLY: Well, I chase a ball around a field with him all the time and I’m much better at it than him. This book should be all about me. MOLLY: I’m inclined to agree with you, Billy. But like I said, he’s in charge. BILLY: He talks a load of rubbish as well. He makes up words of his own that nobody else ever uses, words like ‘ridonculous’. MOLLY: Yes, I’ve always wondered what that means. Any ideas? BILLY: Haven’t got a clue. Do you think they’re all as odd as him? MOLLY: I very much doubt it. Introduction (#ulink_4de449f2-3464-56ee-b6eb-029fd145c91f) Go on, admit it, you turned to the photo pages first, didn’t you? Before I had the chance to say even a word in my defence, you plunged straight into the middle of the book to check out my dodgy haircuts from when I was younger. Don’t worry, though; everybody does it, me included. Those embarrassing old photos are sometimes the best bit of the book, aren’t they? I tried to get the publishers to let me have a book full of pictures, but they insisted I put a few words in here as well. Sorry about that. Anyway, at least you have now made it as far as my first page. I bet there are some buggers who’ll pick up the book in a shop, have a quick look at the dodgy photos, then put the book back down again with no intention whatsoever of buying it. I’m thinking of putting on a disguise one day and spending a few hours hanging out in a bookshop to see how many people do that. When we first started talking about writing a book, it was suggested that I should try to give the reader a feel for what it would be like to sit next to me in the England dressing-room. That’s what these books are supposed to do, I was told; to give a flavour of what it is really like to play for your country. But I didn’t think that would really be fair, because most people don’t find it a particularly pleasant experience to sit alongside me for the duration of a five-day Test match. I’ve got very smelly kit, for starters. My cricket bag begins a Test match in a pretty disorganised state, with everything just thrown in. And by the end of the fifth day there will be stuff strewn everywhere and it’ll take me an age to find all my kit when it’s time to go home. It’s not a pretty sight, so I think I’ll spare you that experience. Actually, one thing about sitting next to me in the dressing-room that may be worth sharing is my vast store of completely useless information. Sitting on the balcony during a Test match, watching our batsmen pile on the runs, the conversation may flag from time to time. And to while away a bit of time, I have been renowned in the England team for nudging whoever is sitting next to me and producing a random fact to start a discussion of some kind. Such as: ‘Did you know that peanuts are used in the manufacture of dynamite?’ ‘Really, Hoggy? How interesting.’ ‘And did you know that peanuts aren’t actually nuts?’ ‘Well, I never did.’ Andrew Strauss has always been especially keen on my little factoids. He says that my ability to produce these pearls of wisdom is evidence of my HIDDEN INTELLIGENCE, however well concealed it might be. But I only know so much rubbish because I’ve got some very good trivia books in the loo at home. How dare he call me intelligent? So you might find your self being nudged at various points during the book and being offered a little HogFact or two. Prepare to be amazed. Other than that, this book is a bit of a higgledy-piggledy ramble through my career, with the odd stop off for refuelling along the way (the way a good walk should be). The wife has blagged a chapter or two, because it wouldn’t seem right to tell a tale about my life without a contribution from her. She’s never been known to miss out on the opportunity to put her two penn’orth in before. And also, as a special treat, if he’s a really good boy, our little lad, Ernie, might even get to say a few words. Originally, I’d wanted to throw a bit of scandal into the book and tell you about such scrapes as the time the entire England team and ended up ! But lawyers will be lawyers and the wise men in wigs told me to tone it down a touch. If you find you’re getting bored at any point during this book, I’ve scribbled a few puzzles between Chapters Two and Three to give you a break. I’ll understand if you feel the need to recharge the brain cells for a while before diving back into my deep and meaningful writing. And if you’re still struggling after the puzzles, well, you could go away and find someone to tell about a startling new fact that you’ve just learned. Failing that, you can always turn back to have a look at those dodgy haircuts, just one more time. 1 My Family and Other Animals by Matthew ’oggard, aged 8½ (#ulink_dedd8cbb-eeb6-5405-adb9-ad9b26e02933) Hello My name is Matthew and I an eight narf years old. I was born on 31st December 1976 in St Mary’s Hospitull and I go to Lowtown Primary School. I live in Pudsey in Yorkshire quite near Leeds and Bradford. They named that teddy bear on Children in Need after Pudsey. I don’t know why. I’m not really into teddy bears myself. I prefer animals and insects. When we do show-and-tell at school I like to take in something slimy or stinky. Once I took a slow-worm that I brought back from camping with mum and dad. I showed it to the boys and girls in my class and everybody just went: ‘EEEUUURRGHHHH! IT’s A SNAKE!’ Especially the girls. So I said: ‘No it’s not. Don’t be so daft. It’s only a slow-worm.’ I’m dead lucky cos we’ve got some fields over our back wall where I can go and look for animals and insects. I love exploring and the fields at the back of our house are brilliant. We call them the blue fields cos some of the soil is blue. It’s summat to do with the chemicals on them. My dad told me what but I’ve forgotten now. There are two marker posts in the blue fields and Mum says I’m not allowed to go past them. At the side of the marker posts there is a meadowy bit where there are loads and loads of insects. Over the other side there is a big old gas cylinder and the banana. The banana is a big steep dip where bigger boys ride their bikes. Past the banana there is a flat bit where you can see a family of foxes. I like to go and watch the big foxes playing with the baby foxes. The baby foxes are called cubs. Just below the flat bit there is a pond. Sumtimes I find a frog or a toad from the pond and take it home. I run into the kitchen and shout: ‘Mum, Mum, look what I’ve found!’ And she’ll say: ‘That’s very nice, Matthew. But please will you take it out of the kitchen.’ I’ve brought all sorts of animals home from the blue fields. I’ve brought toads and frogs and voles and fieldmice and worms. But my favourite are devil’s coach-horses. These are little beetles that chomp on worms for their tea. I’ve got lots of them in an old milk churn at home. Dad has taken the top off the milk churn and I put loads of soil and stones in there for my devil’s coach-horses. I give then worms to eat and watch the worms get munched up. It’s great. I think I want to be a vet when I grow up. I also like dogs and cats. I like going up to dogs and giving them a stroke. Mum always says: ‘Be careful Matthew, they might bite.’ But I say: ‘No it won’t bite me, Mum. Dogs like me.’ We have had some cats as pets but they kept dying. Now we’ve got Smudge and I think he’ll be okay. My Dad is a teacher. He teaches bigger boys to do sums. My Mum used to be a lollipop lady but now she works at a school as well. She works with the science teachers and she wears a white coat. As well as my mum and dad I live with my older Sister karen and Julie. I like being the youngest cos when karen and Julie fall out they both start being really nice to me and trying to get me on their side. Sumtimes I think my sisters wish I was a girl. When it’s fancy dress at school they always make me wear stupid stuff. Like being a St Trinian girl which makes me look a right Prat. Last time I went to school dressed as a St Trinian I played rugby at morning break and laddered my tights. The other thing that I love to do apart from looking for animals is Playing games with my dad. We play loads and loads of different games with balls. We play chuck and catch, French cricket, Frisbee, rugby and football. We go up to the rugby posts at the top field sumtimes and throw of kick a rugby ball and try to hit the crossbar and posts. Dad gives us points when we hit and we see who can get the most points. We also play a lot in our back garden but we’ve got to be careful there cos we’re always knocking plants over and Mum gets cross. I always really want to beat my dad when we’re playing games and he always really wants to beat me. He wins most of the time cos he’s a grown-up. Sumtimes I win and I love it when I do. I like it when we play proper cricket. But bowling is really difficult. I’m good at standing still and bowling and I’m good at running in super fast. But it’s tricky doing them both together. I run in really fast then hop and skip and jump but I never know where my feet are so I can’t bowl when I’ve stopped hopping and skipping and jumping. I get really angry sumtimes. So one Sunday morning Dad decided to sort out my bowling. It took us ages and ages and ages. I just ran in and jumped and bowled loads and loads of times and I tried not to do any hopping or skipping. Run jump bowl run jump bowl run jump bowl. I got it wrong a lot but Dad told me to keep trying. Suddenly just before it was time to go in for our lunch I got good at it. So I tried it a few more times and I was still good at it. Now I really like bowling. It’s my favourite bit of cricket. And Dad says that when I bowl the ball swings a lot. I don’t really know what that means but it sounds cool. WHY CRICKET IS A BATSMAN’S GAME 1. EFFORT They stand there and hit balls for a living, and run when it’s actually going to be worth something to them. A bit like someone that won’t get out of bed unless they’re being paid for it. Bowlers put more effort into bowling a dot ball than batsmen do into hitting a six. 2. FIELDING POSITIONS Where do batsmen normally field? In the slips, chatting away while the bowlers do the running around elsewhere. If you’re fielding at fine leg and the batsman snicks a ball through the slips for four, the slips just turn round and look at you to fetch it, even though it’s probably closer to them. You’ve just stood there for twenty overs, you f***ing fetch it. 3. PRACTICE SESSIONS Once they’ve had their turn to bat, some batsmen can’t be bothered to bowl at us tail-enders. And if they are gracious enough to turn their arms over, they just stroll up and bowl some filthy off-spin. 4. CAPTAINCY Captains are almost always batsmen, so they don’t know what it’s like to be a bowler, to be aching and groaning at the end of a hard day. Can you give us one more over, Hoggy? You can’t ever say no. 5. SMALL STUMPS Let’s face it, not many dismissals come from a brilliant ball that pitches leg and hits off. Most batsmen get themselves out, through boredom or a daft shot. If we had bigger stumps, there would be more genuine dismissals for the deserving, long-suffering bowlers. 2 Gardens, Gags and Games (#ulink_7b839c28-b92c-5fdd-9015-0c0bf838f655) In case anyone is wondering, I never did quite make it as a vet. All those ball games I was playing rather got in the way and I ended up doing that for a living instead. So if you’re a dog-lover who saw the front of this book and thought it was for you, well, the dogs will be featuring from time to time, but I’m afraid there will be a bit of cricket along the way as well. If you really don’t like cricket, you can always look up Billy and Molly in the index and skip to those bits. And there’s always the photos for you to have a good laugh at. Everyone likes looking at those. Anyway, sorry if you don’t feel you’ve had your money’s worth. It’s mainly my dad’s fault, I think, that I became quite so keen on cricket. He hadn’t played much himself—the odd staff match here and there—but there was hardly a sport that he wasn’t interested in. And there really was no end to those games we played together for years when I was a lad. Wherever we went, we would take a ball with us and Dad would think up some game or other and invent a set of rules to turn it into a contest. When we were up at the top field by the rugby posts, throwing a tennis ball or kicking a rugby ball at the crossbar, Dad would devise a points system of some sort to turn it into a proper game. We got one point for hitting a post below the crossbar, two for hitting a post above the crossbar and a jackpot of five points for hitting the crossbar itself. I remember the first time I was given a hard ball. My nan and grandad had bought it for me from a flea market for 20p and I spent ages bowling with it in the back garden. I was desperate to have a bat against it as well, so Dad took me up to Crawshaw playing fields, where they had a concrete wicket covered with green rubber matting, which made the surface quite bouncy. I was really excited about going up there and I ran up the dirt path that led up the side of the field. I couldn’t wait to play on that pitch with a PROPER HARD BALL. We were going to start with one of us bowling and the other one catching, just to get a feel for the ball, so Dad got ready to bowl and I got ready to catch. He ran in, turned his arm over and the ball pitched halfway down the wicket. Because of the green matting, it bounced a bit more than I expected and it leapt up and smacked me right in the chops. There was blood everywhere, I bawled my eyes out and we went straight home. So much for playing with a hard ball. That might not have been quite as much fun as I had hoped, but the best cricket games I played with my dad were with a red Incrediball down at Post Hill, a short walk from our house. This was an overgrown field with trees all around it, and it was the place we used to go when I got my first dog, Pepper (there’s another dog to look up in the index). I’d been pestering Mum for years to let me have a dog and she finally let me when I was 13. Pepper was a crossbreed, part Staffordshire bull terrier, part Labrador, with a few more breeds thrown in as well, but he looked very much like a Rottweiler. He was a lovely dog, very loyal and friendly, and he generally did as he was told. I trained him to fetch my socks and shoes for me, and when we went camping on a weekend (which was almost every weekend in summer), Pepper would bed down in my tent alongside me. We were very good pals. But probably the best thing about him was that he absolutely loved to chase and fetch a ball. So when we took him for walks down to Post Hill, Pepper became our fielder. Wherever we hit the ball, he’d sprint after it and bring it back to us. He was an absolutely brilliant fielder. He made Jonty Rhodes look like Monty Panesar. Those games at Post Hill with my dad (and occasionally my mum) were incredibly well organised and we developed hundreds of rules over the years. As a bat, we used a stick that I’d found in the woods and ripped the bark off, about the size of a baseball bat. I think it was bent in the middle as well. Batting was a tricky business, because the pitch was nowhere near flat, there were stones all over it, so one ball could bounce over your head, then the next could roll along the floor. Not only that, but we had the biggest set of stumps in the world. Whoever was batting would stand in front of a sapling that must have been three feet wide and six feet high. That was our stumps. So if Dad bowled me a bouncer, there wasn’t much point in me ducking underneath it because I’d be bowled out. And if the ball hit me on the shoulder, I could be lbw. As I said, batting was far from easy. If you managed to connect with the ball, and sent it flying into the trees for Pepper to fetch, there were some trees that were out and other trees that were six. If you hit the ball over a track behind the bowler, that was six as well. And if you edged the ball, there was a bigger tree behind the sapling that served as a slip cordon. If you nicked it past the tree, you were okay, but if it so much as clipped a leaf, you were out. As you can imagine, wickets fell at regular intervals in this game, so we played ten-wicket innings. I would bat until I’d been out ten times, then Dad would do the same and try to beat me. Fifty or sixty† (#ulink_5225c92b-8dd9-5593-a0ec-c0b4c71a4eed) all out could well be a match-winning score. I’m not sure who won the most games. I think that I did, but my dad would probably say that he did. Actually, why don’t I go and ask him? Or better still, I’ll ask my mum as well. I’ve a feeling that we might need an independent adjudicator. I’m not sure that leaves us any the wiser about who won the most games, but this is my book so I get the final word. I won the most games, but I might not have done if Dad hadn’t sorted my bowling action out in the garden. That seems fair enough. Once I had got the hang of jumping rather than hopping, I used to spend ages practising in the garden, running in down the side of the greenhouse and bowling into a netting fence that we had. I had to be careful, though, because we lived in a semi-detached house and there was another garden right next door. I once bowled one that hit a ridge, bounced over the fence and smashed next door’s garage window.† (#ulink_1bc7290f-b530-52d4-89a3-55c8ce2ae14e) Mum and Dad still live in the same house and I was round there recently having a look at the garden, and it occurred to me that the layout there is probably responsible for a quirk that I have in my bowling action. I have a bit of a cross-action, in that my front foot goes across to the right too far when I bowl, across my body (compared with how a normal person bowls, anyway). It actually helps me to swing the ball and has helped in particular against left-handers, enabling me to get closer in to the stumps bowling over the wicket, giving me a better chance of getting an lbw. In the layout opposite, the main set of arrows from top to bottom show my run-up and pitch in the garden. The two-way arrows towards the bottom show where I threw the ball against the kitchen wall and smacked it back across the patio. You can see there wasn’t a straight line coming down from the side of the greenhouse to the fence where the wickets were on the other side of the garden, so I had to adjust and come across myself in my action. It had never occurred to me until recently, but that could well have led to the way I have bowled ever since. So perhaps every time I dismissed Matthew Hayden when I was playing for England, I should have been thanking my dad for putting the greenhouse in such a daft place. Not so far from our house, about a ten-minute walk (fifteen if you had a heavy bag), was our local cricket club, Pudsey Congs, which is where I went to start playing some proper cricket. I started going down there at the age of 11 and, to begin with, we played eight-a-side, sixteen overs per team, with four pairs of batsmen going in for four overs at a time, and losing eight runs every time one of them was out. From the first time I went, I was really keen, and I think Mum was even keener to have me out of the house. Soon enough, the cricket club became the centre of my little universe. I was lucky to have such a good club just down the road. I suppose that anywhere you go in Yorkshire you’ll never be far from a decent cricket club, but I certainly couldn’t have done much better than having Pudsey Congs—or Pudsey Pongos, as we were known—right on my doorstep. It was a friendly place with a good family atmosphere, the bar would be full most nights and the first team played a very decent standard of cricket, in the Bradford League first division. I worked my way up through the junior sides and was then drafted into the third team for a season when I was 15.1 played a couple of second-team games as well that year, but to my amazement, the next season I was fast-tracked into the first team by Phil Carrick, the former Yorkshire left-arm spinner who was captain of the club. Ferg, as he was known to everyone (think ‘Carrickfergus’), had obviously seen something in me that he liked. I wish I was In Carrickfergus Only for nights in Ballygran I would swim over the deepest ocean… I’d been a bit of a late developer up to this point. As well as my cricket, I’d done some judo and played quite a bit of rugby, but I gave those up because all the other lads were bigger and broader than me. From the age of 16, though, I really started to grow and, as a result, my bowling began to develop. To this day, I’m not sure exactly what Ferg saw in me, maybe just a big fast bowler’s arse and an ability to swing the ball. I certainly used to swing the ball in the nets at Congs, but that might have had something to do with my special ball. There was one ball in particular that I used to keep for bowling with in the nets and I looked after it lovingly. At home, I would get Cherry Blossom shoe polish out of Mum and Dad’s cupboard, put a dollop of that on the ball and buff it up with a shoebrush. Then before nets on a Wednesday night I would give the ball one last polish with a shining brush, and make absolutely sure that nobody else nicked it when I went to practice. That was my ball and nobody else was getting their grubby mitts on it. For all that Ferg whistled me up into the first team at Congs, for the first few games all I did was bowl two or three overs and spend the rest of the innings fielding, wondering when I was going to get another bowl. After a few games, I started to find this frustrating. ‘Ferg,’ I said, ‘why do you want me here playing a fifty-over game if I’m only going to bowl a few overs?’ The answer was that he was easing me in, allowing me to get a feel for first-team cricket before too much was expected of my bowling. He didn’t want to rush me because this was, after all, a very decent standard of club cricket, probably the best in Yorkshire (and therefore, so some locals would have you believe, probably the best in the world). As the season progressed, I started to bowl a few more overs, but I was given an early idea of the quality I was up against when we played Spen Victoria. That was the game I came across Chris Pickles, the Yorkshire all-rounder who was coming to the end of his county career but spent his weekends terrorising club bowlers. He just used to come in and blast it; most of the grounds weren’t very big and he could smash 100 in no time. I opened the bowling that day and had one of the openers caught at slip with a lovely outswinger (no shoe polish involved this time, just the new ball curving away nicely). Pickles was next in and he wandered out to ask the other opening batsman what was happening. ‘Oh, it’s just swinging a bit,’ his mate said. I’d heard all about Pickles, so I ran in really hard at him next ball. The ball swung alright, and landed on a length, but he just plonked his front foot down the wicket, hit through the line of the ball and sent it soaring over cow corner, where it landed on top of some faraway nets. I couldn’t believe it. I just stood halfway down the wicket, hands on my hips, looking at him with a puzzled expression on my face. He ambled down the wicket, tapped the pitch with his bat, and muttered out of the corner of his mouth: Anti-swing device, son. ‘Antiswing device.’ So I was on a steep learning curve, but I loved the atmosphere and I just wanted to bowl. We had a good team, including former Yorkshire players like Ferg and Neil Hartley, and current ones like Richard Kettleborough, while James Middlebrook came up through the ranks with me. We also had some very useful overseas players, such as VVS Laxman from India and Yousuf Youhana from Pakistan. I’d be bumping into them again later in my career. Lax was only 19 when he came to us, but it was clear he was a class act. After one game in which he’d scored a few runs and I’d taken a couple of wickets, we were chatting to Ferg in the clubhouse. ‘One day,’ Ferg said, ‘you two will play against each other in Test match cricket.’ We just laughed at him and told him not to be so daft. Lax had only played a handful of games and I was a raggy-arsed 17-year-old who’d just broken into Pudsey Congs first team, so it was a pretty outlandish thing to say. The sad thing was that Ferg didn’t live to see his prediction come true. In January 2000, at the age of 47, he died after suffering from leukaemia. Less than two years later, I played for England in Mohali against an India team that included VVS Laxman. He was a great man, Ferg, and I miss him terribly. It’s impossible to overstate his influence on me in those early days at Congs. He really took me under his wing. Whether we were out in the field or chatting in the bar after a game, he always had time for me. With my bowling, he would always emphasise to me the importance of length. ‘Length, Matthew, length.’ He’d tell me to go to the nets, put a hankie down on a length and see how many times I could hit it in an over. I used to spend hours doing that, going up to the nets at Congs after school and bowling on my own at a set of stumps with a hankie or a lump of wood on a good length. And then, when we were playing a match on Saturday, I would have Ferg standing at mid-off and growling at me. Even now, fifteen years later, when I bowl too short or too full, I can sometimes hear Ferg’s gruff voice grumbling in my ear: ‘Length, Matthew, length.’ But I must have been getting my length right most of the time, because in 1995, after only a couple of seasons in the first team at Congs, Ferg recommended me to Yorkshire. I was still only 18, doing the second year of my A-levels at Grangefield comprehensive, but when schoolwork allowed I was able to take the next steps of my cricketing education in the Yorkshire Second XI. In general, club cricket with Pudsey Pongos prepared me pretty well for life on the county Second XI circuit. There were always new lessons to be learned, but I don’t remember feeling particularly out of my depth at any point, at least not from a cricketing point of view. But one thing that is drastically different about playing three-day matches, and spending a lot of time on the road as a result, is that you spend a hell of a lot of time with your team-mates. This is a group of young blokes, many of whom are easily bored and need to find things to occupy their underdeveloped brains, a situation that inevitably results in a lot of practical jokes. For quite some time in the Yorkshire second team, I felt well out of my depth in terms of the pranks. And to make matters worse, the prankster-in-chief was the coach himself. Doug Padgett was a coach from the old school, a former Yorkshire batsman who had been the club’s coach for donkey’s years and usually travelled with the second team. He was a good bloke, but he had a time-honoured way of making a new lad feel welcome. Take the piss out of him whenever possible. This is the man who would welcome a lad making his debut by sending him round to take the day’s lunch order. ‘Here, Twatook,’ he would say (he called all the younger lads Twatook). ‘Do the lunches for us, will you? Go round and see how many of the lads want steak and how many want salmon, then nip to the kitchen and tell the chef.’ So the new lad would eagerly set about his task, taking all eleven orders, only to find when he got to the kitchen that the only option available for lunch was lasagne, something that Padge and the other ten players were only too well aware of. Another trick of Padge’s was to ask a new lad to go to his car and find out the Test score from the radio. James Middlebrook was one who stumbled into this trap. ‘Midders, Twatook, nip to your car and find out the Test score for us, will you? There’s a good lad.’ So off Midders trooped to his car and sat there for ages, frantically tuning and re-tuning the radio in an attempt to find Test Match Special. He returned slightly crestfallen, having failed in his mission. ‘Sorry, Padge, the Test match doesn’t seem to be on the radio today.’ ‘No, Twatook, it wouldn’t be. They don’t play Test cricket on a Wednesday.’ A lesson swiftly learned for Midders, who would think twice before his esteemed coach sent him off on any errands again. I’d say I felt sorry for him, but most of us suffered in a similar way, some worse than others. Midders got away lightly compared to the poor young whippersnapper who had travelled with Padge on an away trip to Glamorgan a few years earlier. This was before my time, but the tale was often told of an unnamed player—let’s just call him Twatook—who sat in Padge’s car for the long drive down to Wales along with a couple of his new team-mates. As they travelled down the M5 and started to approach the Welsh border, Padge turned to the young lad sitting quietly in the back. ‘You have got your passport with you, haven’t you, Twatook? We’re about to go into Wales.’ ‘Erm, erm, erm, no Padge, I don’t think I have,’ came the timid reply. ‘Oh Christ, didn’t anybody tell you? We’re going to Wales. It’s a different country. What are we going to do when we get to the border? We’re going to have to hide you.’ So Padge pulled his car over, opened the boot, moved several cricket bags to the back seat and told his victim to lie down in the boot until they had crossed the border. Young Twatook climbed in, snuggled down and Padge slammed the boot lid shut. He drove off into Wales, leaving his captive in the boot to think about the foolishness of forgetting his passport. Once the border had been safely negotiated—armed checkpoints and all—the hostage was released, poor lad. I’m sure Padge felt that it was all good character-building stuff. Where Padge had led, there were plenty of disciples ready to follow, which has made the Headingley dressing-room a dangerous place to be at times over the last few years. Probably the biggest irritant in the Yorkshire team in recent years—myself aside—has been Anthony McGrath. The problem with Mags is that he is easily bored and he likes to fill his time by pissing off his team-mates. A few years ago, one of his little pet projects was to put his team-mates’ cars up for sale in Auto Trader magazine, always at a bargain price carefully calculated by Mags himself. The advert for the car would usually say something along the lines of: ‘Owner forced to move abroad, Price reduced for quick sale. Please call…’ and then include the player’s mobile phone number. Inevitably, for such a bargain, these adverts attracted plenty of interest from potential buyers, prompting an endless stream of phone calls to the victim’s mobile. Time after time, he would have to say, ‘I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, but it’s not for sale.’ Which could be quite amusing on the first two or three occasions. But when it came to the 25th call in the space of an hour, it could start to become more than a little irritating. Bogus adverts aside, Mags has often been implicated in one of the great scandals that has swirled around the Yorkshire team for several seasons now. This is the ongoing mystery of Jack the Snipper, a long-running case that has yet to be cracked and has baffled some of the finest criminal investigators in Yorkshire and beyond. The culprit in this case is known to be someone with access to the Yorkshire dressing-room. He (or she?) waits until the dressing-room is deserted, then quickly seizes his (or her?) moment, moving in with a pair of scissors and snipping the toes off a sock belonging to the intended victim. When the victim goes to pull his sock on after the game, he pulls it up to his knee and realises, to his horror, that he has become the latest victim of JACK (OR JACQUELINE?) THE SNIPPER. Understandably, nobody has ever owned up to these crimes, so the mystery remains unsolved. Police now suspect that the culprit may have multiple identities. Not the most original of practical jokes, perhaps, but most of the Yorkshire players have seen it as a mildly amusing, relatively harmless gag if they happened to be a victim. But one season the Snipper targeted David Byas so many times that he no longer saw the funny side. Gadge, as he was known (for his extraordinary Inspector Gadget-like extending arms in the slips), was our captain at the time and, after his socks had been snipped for the umpteenth time, he decided the time had come to put an end to the tomfoolery. In the build-up to one Sunday League game at Headingley, Gadge told us that we all had to be at the ground by 10 o’clock in the morning, even though the match wasn’t due to begin until 1.30 in the afternoon. It seemed a strange request, but Gadge was keen on punctuality, so everyone dutifully turned up at the appointed time. At which point the skipper took us all out to the middle of the ground at Headingley and asked us to sit in a big circle. He sat down with us and then told us why we were all sitting there looking as though we were about to play Pass the Parcel. ‘Right, you lot,’ he said, ‘nobody is moving from this circle until I find out which pillock has been snipping my f***ing socks. I just want to know who it is, then we can have a quick chat, move on and all go for some lunch.’ Nobody said a word. For a good few minutes there was complete and utter silence. ‘Come on,’ said Gadge, after a while. ‘I’m not joking here. We’re going to get to the bottom of this nonsense. Whoever has been snipping my socks is sitting in this circle and I want to know who it is.’ Still nobody said anything. There was another long, uncomfortable silence. After we’d been there for about half an hour, Gadge became more insistent—still reasonably calm, but the tone of his voice raised slightly. ‘Listen,’ he said. ‘If nobody has got the balls to own up to doing these stupid stunts, it’s a piss-poor effort. All you need to do is be big enough to own up, then we can move on.’ And still nobody said anything. We had probably been there for around an hour when Gadge started to get angry. ‘For f***’s sake,’ he said, ‘will somebody PLEASE tell me who has been snipping my f***ing socks?’ Once again, there was only silence. And I kid you not, we were sitting out on that field, in that circle, for three hours. THREE WHOLE HOURS! Eventually, at one o’clock, the opposition captain arrived out in the middle, asking if we were ready to toss up, and Gadge, as captain, had no option but to get up and leave us. So Jack the Snipper had slipped off the leash again and he remains at large to this very day. If you ever find yourself having to spend a day in or around the Yorkshire dressing-room, it may be worth your while packing a spare pair of socks. The same season as that unfortunate incident, there was an outbreak of a similar—but unrelated—crime in the Yorkshire second team. At the time, I was in and out of the first and second teams, so I saw some of the events first hand and have called on extremely reliable witnesses to fill me in on the bits I missed. Again, this spate of crimes involved some tampering with the kit of a senior member of the dressing-room, but this time socks were not involved. This time the crime was theft and the stolen items were underpants belonging to Steve Oldham, Esso, the second team coach. Pinching someone’s underpants might, again, seem like a fairly low-level jape, causing brief hilarity in the dressing-room, and mild irritation to the victim. But if you’re playing away from home for a four-day match and you have four pairs of undies stolen, it can be more than a little frustrating. It’s difficult to replace the pants, for a start, because you have to be at a cricket match all day while the shops are open, and a week without undies is, I imagine, not much fun. And if, like Esso, this happens to you for seven four-day matches in succession, that’s twenty-eight pairs of underpants that have gone missing. Boxer shorts, Y-fronts, briefs; you name them, Esso lost the lot. As you’d expect, Esso grew more and more frustrated as his stock of underpants became gradually depleted during the season. But he tried hard to keep his cool, to make it seem as though the thefts weren’t getting to him, to deny the prankster the satisfaction of seeing him upset. That pretence of calm became harder to maintain once his pants started to reappear in increasingly unusual ways. The first pair was returned during a game at Bradford Park Avenue. Esso was sitting watching the game, when he casually glanced up at the flagpole and noticed a pair of his Y-fronts billowing in the breeze where the Yorkshire flag should have been. Nobody would own up to hoisting the offending item, so Esso made us all run around the ground for an hour in the pouring rain at the end of the day’s play. The next second team game was at York and we travelled to the ground as usual in three or four cars. I was in one of the middle cars and Esso was in one of the cars further back. When we turned off the A64 for the last leg of the journey, we saw the road sign saying ‘Welcome to York’, but hung over the corner of the sign was another pair of Esso’s undies. I’m not sure whether he stopped his car to retrieve them or not, but at the end of the game at York we found ourselves running round the outfield again as punishment. Perhaps the thief was starting to take pity on Esso by now, because the underpants were being returned to him on a regular basis. Never in a straightforward way, but at least he was gaining pants rather than losing them. I wasn’t around to see the next pair returned, but I heard that they were discovered during the second team’s next home game at Bingley, where the groundsman had a dog. At some point during that game, the groundsman’s dog was spotted running onto the field, wearing what looked very much like a pair of men’s briefs. I missed out on the post-match laps of the boundary that time, but by this stage Yorkshire’s second team must have been the fittest side on the circuit. It was now getting towards the end of the season and, whether or not the thief was running out of ideas, he was running out of time to return the rest of his loot. Our final home game of the season was at Castleford and, when Esso drove into the ground, he was finally put out of his misery. Strung around the railings of the car park, like bunting at a school fair, were the remaining twenty-one pairs of underpants, good as new, ready to be reclaimed by their rightful owner, and Esso’s torment was at an end. Isn’t it nice when a crime story has a happy ending? I don’t want to name names here in case anyone’s lawyer gets onto me, but there were strong suspicions that Alex Morris, our gangly all-rounder from Barnsley, may have been involved in these pranks. And Gareth Batty, the off-spinner, was also considered not to be beyond suspicion. But once again, the crime remained unsolved. For some reason, Alex left Yorkshire a couple of years later and moved to the other end of the country to play for Hampshire. Similarly, Batts soon departed to play for Surrey. I’ve never found out whether their departures were related to the case of Esso’s undies. Once I had finished my A-levels in 1995, I spent most of the summers of 1996 and 1997 playing for Yorkshire’s Second XL I made my first-class debut in July 1996, against South Africa A, but didn’t get a run of games in the first team until a couple of years later. In the meantime, I was able to go back on a weekend and play for Pudsey Congs with Ferg and my mates. And that would invariably be followed by a good few beers in the clubhouse on a Saturday night, which I was quickly learning was all part of the fun. By this time, a promising ginger-haired wicketkeeper called Matthew Duce had made his way into the first team at Congs. For me, as an outswing bowler, it is always important to have a decent wicketkeeper in your side to hang onto all those nicks, so Ducey was good for me because he had a safe pair of hands. And the fact that he had an attractive sister who would come to watch us was an added bonus. Sarah was a similar age to me, she was single at the time, and this gave Ferg an idea. One Saturday, when we were playing away to East Bierley, I was sitting watching the game while we batted, and Ferg said to me: ‘I bet you couldn’t get a date with Ducey’s sister, Hoggy. No chance at all. In fact, I’ll bet you a fiver that you can’t.’ Unbeknown to Ferg, in the previous couple of weeks Sarah and I had already had a couple of liaisons that we had managed to keep a secret. But I wasn’t about to tell Ferg that, so the next week I turned up and was able to announce, to his astonishment, that I had indeed managed to get a date with the supposedly impossible Miss Duce, and I would be going out with her that evening. What a result! A date with an attractive girl and a fiver from Ferg already in my pocket to buy her a couple of bags of crisps. That must’ve been the easiest money I’ve ever earned. Sarah and I soon became good mates and, for a girl, she wasn’t a bad ’un at all. I must have been keen, too, because I even started taking her along when I went to meet Ferg in the pub (yes, I knew how to show a girl a good time). I used to go to his local, the Busfeild [sic] Arms in East Morton, he would have a pint of Tetley’s, I’d have a pint of Guinness and we would talk about cricket, the universe and everything else besides. Even once I was on the books at Yorkshire, if I ever needed a few words of wisdom I would go back to Ferg’s pub to chat to him, and Sarah would usually come with me. Halfway through the 1998 season, I was becoming fed up with the lack of first-team cricket I was getting at Yorkshire. I’d been doing well in the second team, but there were a lot of pace bowlers around at the time. There was Darren Gough and Peter Hartley opening the bowling, then Chris Silverwood, Craig White, Paul Hutchison, Ryan Sidebottom, Gavin Hamilton and Alex Wharf. It was an amazing crop of seam bowlers. In one second-team game at Harrogate, I took seven wickets against Worcestershire and they expressed an interest in signing me. I asked Ferg for advice and he suggested that I should go down to Worcester with Sarah, have a look around the place and see what we thought. We went down there for a weekend, stayed in a hotel and had a chat to Bill Athey, who was Worcestershire’s second-team coach. He had played in that game at Harrogate and kindly missed a straight one that I bowled to him. We quite liked the look of Worcester, but I went back to Yorkshire and told them my situation, and they persuaded me that I still had a good chance of playing in the first team. We mulled it over and eventually I decided to back myself to succeed at Yorkshire. So Sarah and I were very much an item by now and before long I was invited for a game of golf with her dad, Colin. We went to play at Gotts Park in Leeds and it soon became apparent to me that I was dealing with a family who weren’t backwards in coming forwards when Colin told me that he had had a vasectomy. Why did he need to tell me that? I’d only just met the bloke, and I barely knew what a vasectomy was, but Colin clearly decided that it was something I needed to know. There must have been a long and awkward silence while I worked out what I was supposed to say in response. In the end I probably just grunted. Things didn’t get any better once the golf started. On one of the early holes, he played his tee shot, then wandered off to the right and rested his three-wood against his golf bag. I told him he’d be well advised not to stand there, because I never really knew where I was going to hit the thing. So he stepped back a couple of paces, and it was a good job he did. From my tee shot, I whacked the biggest slice imaginable. The ball flew off at 45 degrees and smashed straight into Colin’s three wood. It was a freakish shot, it hit bang smack in the middle of his carbon shaft and the club snapped clean in two. Not the best of impressions to make on my prospective father-in-law. But at least Colin seemed to like me, which was something that certainly couldn’t be said of Sarah’s mum, Carole, in those days. She had found out about the start of our relationship while she and Colin were away on holiday in France. Sarah hadn’t gone with her, so Carole phoned up while she was away to check that all was well. ‘How are things at home?’ she asked Sarah. ‘Any news?’ ‘Not much really, Mum,’ said Sarah. ‘Oh, except I’ve got a new boyfriend.’ ‘Oh, that’s nice. Anyone I know?’ ‘Well, yes, you know of him.’ ‘Is he from the cricket club?’ ‘Yes, he is.’ There was a short pause while Carole worked out the likely candidates. ‘And will I like him?’ she asked. ‘Erm, not sure, Mum. I think you will.’ ‘Oh, Sarah, please don’t tell me it’s that Matthew Hoggard. That boy is so rude. And he’s always drunk.’ ‘Er, yes, I’m afraid it is him. Sorry, Mum.’ So even from that early stage, Sarah was feeling the need to apologise for me. But I’m glad to say that the relationship with my in-laws has progressed considerably since those first days. We get on like a house on fire now and I couldn’t wish for better in-laws. I still regularly play golf with Colin—the Badger, as he has come to be known, because he’s as mad as a badger about his cricket, buying a season ticket for Yorkshire and sitting in the same seat at Headingly all summer. I also still play cricket with Ducey, Sarah’s brother, when I can. As for Carole, I gradually managed to persuade her that I wasn’t always drunk and that I wasn’t quite as rude as she had first thought. I’ve got absolutely no idea what gave her those impressions in the first place, no idea at all. She eventually realised what a fine, upstanding, polite, charming, sober, intelligent individual I was. But it’s a good job that Sarah didn’t listen to her mother’s advice on everything, or I don’t think our relationship would have lasted too long. † (#ulink_c7479e79-cf8e-5374-b068-d9ad2e6fb381)HOGFACT: By the time they reach the age of SIXTY, most people’s sense of smell is only half as effective as in their younger days. As you can tell by the aftershave that old blokes wear. † (#ulink_15a650ca-e459-5303-800f-83c6794a00a5)HOGFACT: In Massachusetts, snoring is prohibited unless all bedroom windows are closed and securely locked. I’m led to believe that a man’s punishment for this crime is a slap from the wife. FIVE GREAT THINGS ABOUT BEING A CRICKETER WORKING CONDITIONS You don’t have to work in the rain, in the dark, or in the winter: when it gets cold, we just go to a warmer part of the world and play there instead. REGULAR BREAKS You get breaks for lunch and tea built into your working day. And breaks for drinks every hour or so as well. Imagine trying to take that many coffee breaks in a normal working day. LATE STARTS Our work doesn’t really start until 11 o’clock: okay, we usually have to be at the ground for 9 o’clock, but we don’t really have to be functioning fully until play starts at 11 o’clock. THE GREAT OUTDOORS We get to spend all day outside rather than being stuck in an office: a bad day on the cricket field is better than a good day in the office. SKIVING Half the time when we’re at work, we don’t actually have to do anything: when your team is batting, you can either sit and chat with your mates or, if necessary, go to sleep on the job. Nice work if you can get it, eh? PUZZLES I’ve no doubt that 999,999,999 of my 1,000,000,000 readers will be completely engrossed in the book by now and desperate to get to the next chapter. But just in case you’re the odd one out and feel in need of a break, here are a few puzzles to keep you amused. If you like SuDoku, sorry, I couldn’t draw one of those… 3 Wild and Free (#ulink_e0900b02-4ca0-5d61-9967-1fbcac424b57) I can remember coming of age clearly, because turning 18 hit me with a thud. The precise moment that the thud occurred was during my 18th birthday party at Pudsey Congs clubhouse (where else?). I was standing on a chair, getting carried away dancing to Cotton-Eyed Joe, and I smashed my head on the fire exit sign. Not quite behaving like a proper grown-up yet, then. Unsurprisingly, it was Ferg who decided that the time had come for me to broaden my horizons beyond the playing fields of Yorkshire. I’d played my first few games for the county Second XI in the summer of 1995, and not done too badly, but I was still extremely raw, both as a bowler and as a lad. So Ferg got in touch with Richard Lumb, his old Yorkshire teammate, who had moved out to South Africa and was involved with the Pirates club in Johannesburg. ‘Hoggy, it would do you good to go abroad,’ Ferg said. ‘I’ve sorted you out a club in South Africa, You’ll have a great time. See you in six months.’ And that was pretty much that. I spent two winters with the Pirates, then returned to South Africa a couple of years later in 1998, a little less raw, for the first of two seasons playing first-class cricket with Free State in Bloemfontein. Both of them were fantastic experiences which, in different ways, helped me to find my way in the world. My first spell in Johannesburg, shortly after I’d done my A-levels in 1995, was the first time I’d lived away from home. It was also the first time I’d been in an aeroplane. We’d been on umpteen family camping holidays to France when I was younger, but we’d always driven in the car and I’d never been up in the skies. My mum and dad drove me down to Heathrow, and by the time we got to London, I think my fears had gradually given way to excitement. Never mind the six months away from home, I thought, I’m actually going to go up in an aeroplane! Nneeeeeooowwwmmmm! When I landed at Johannesburg airport, I must have come across like a little boy lost. For what seemed like ages I was looking for Richard Lumb and he was looking for me, both of us without success. He was going round asking anybody with a cricket bag—and there were quite a few—if they were Matthew Hoggard; I was going round looking for a tall bloke with grey hair, and there seemed to be plenty of them as well. Eventually, we found each other and got into his car. We got lost on the drive away from the airport, but he finally managed to take us to the famous Wanderers club, where he set the tone for my trip by buying me lunch and a beer or two. And that was to become my staple diet for much of my stay in South Africa. Not so much the lunch; just the beer. I don’t think I’d been warned, by Ferg or anyone else, just how much the South Africans like their beer. They must be the thirstiest nation on earth. Given the chance, they’d have beer for breakfast, and plenty of them do. Before I’d even played a game with my new team-mates at the Pirates, they took me out to welcome me to the club. We went to the bar at the Randburg Waterfront, a lake just outside Johannesburg with loads of bars and restaurants around it. The evening started with a few convivial drinks, which helped me to relax as I was introduced to these strange people who, like it or lump it, were to become my new friends. After we’d been in the bar for a couple of hours, I felt myself being shepherded towards the stage. When I was up there, everyone started singing, and I was given a half-pint glass full of the most disgusting-looking green drink. I had no idea what was in it, but something in it had curdled. I later found out that they had gone along the top shelf of spirits and topped up the glass with Coke. Yum yum. The whole pub was singing at me to down it, so what else could I do? I remember drinking it, but I don’t recall much after that. I just remember waking up in the morning feeling very, very ill. But that had been my initiation ceremony at my new club. Welcome to the Pirates. The problem was that just about every week seemed to be an initiation. The first game I played was for the club’s second team, so they could have a look at what I was capable of (and perhaps to check that I was still able to bowl a ball in a straight line after my ordeal at the Waterfront). That first game was away from home against Wits Technical College and, in one of those strange coincidences that cricket often throws up, also making his debut for Pirates that day was Gerard Brophy, who a couple of years later would be my captain at Free State and a few years after that came to keep wicket for Yorkshire. I was quite surprised to find that it was really cold that day. I hadn’t initially planned to pack my cricket jumpers, I just expected it to be baking hot all the time, but I was glad I’d shoved them in at the last minute because it was bloody freezing. Anyway, both Gerard and I did the business on our debuts: he got 100 and I took four wickets. So the cricket had gone well, but what really got to me was the fines system in the clubhouse afterwards. This was basically an excuse (yet another excuse) for making people drink vast quantities of beer, as decided by the fines-master of the day. Fines would be handed down for stupid comments made during the day, for embarrassing bits of fielding or for any other random transgression that could be deemed punishable by beer. This wasn’t something I’d encountered back at Pudsey Congs. Depending on who the fines-master was for that particular game, the punishment for a brainless comment would probably be to down a bottle of Castle. And that stupid shot you played? Oh yes, you’d better down another bottle for that as well. Needless to say, there was no mercy shown to the newcomers. The worst offender for each game would be sentenced to death, which meant downing a beer every five minutes. The fines-master would have a watch, and every five minutes a cry of ‘Cuckoo, cuckoo!’ would ring out, signifying that the victim had to stand up and sink another bottle of beer. This would continue for as long as the fines session lasted, sometimes well over an hour. And to thank us for our sterling contributions in our first game for the Pirates, both Gerard and I were sentenced to death that day. So that was Initiation Mark II and another grim hangover the next morning. And there would be plenty more of those to follow. Throughout my first year in Jo’burg, I stayed with the club chairman, Barry Skjoldhammer (pronounced Shult-hammer) and his family, his wife Nicky, their daughter Kim who was 11, and her brother David, who was 9. I’m not sure they knew what they were letting themselves in for when they agreed to take me in, but they were absolutely fantastic to me and treated me like one of their own. They had a nice house, a games room with a pool table, their own bar and a nice garden with a swimming pool. Life was good. They even took pity on me one morning after I’d come in from a night out at 5.30 a.m. The front door had been bolted and I couldn’t get into the house, so I kicked Sheba, the family dog, out of her bed on the veranda and curled up there for an hour before everyone else woke up. I wasn’t sure what Nicky would say when she found me lying there at 6.30 a.m., but she actually told me off for not waking them up to let me in. After about three months, the chance came up for me to move out and go to stay in a flat with Alvin Kallicharran, who was also playing club cricket out there. By now, the Skjoldhammers knew that I was a bit wet behind the ears because they said that they wanted me to stay with them so they could keep an eye on me. And no way did I want to go: I got cooked for, I got lifts everywhere, there were kids to play with and they were lovely people. It was great. Even now, I look on the Skjoldhammers as my second family. It wasn’t just at my new home that I was made to feel welcome. Although it may seem as though they were setting out to kill me with alcohol (I survived more than one death sentence), I couldn’t have been happier with the Pirates. For a start, we had a very decent team. When they weren’t playing for Transvaal, we had Ken Rutherford, the former New Zealand captain, Mark Rushmere and Steven Jack, who both played for South Africa, and a few guys, like Paul Smith, my fellow opening bowler, who had played for Transvaal. I also managed to take a few wickets, which helped me to be accepted quickly. It didn’t take me long to adjust my bowling because conditions suited me nicely. We were at altitude in Jo’burg, where the ball tends to swing more in the thinner air, and I was fairly nippy in those days and generally caused a few problems. It was quite a different club from Pudsey Congs. Back home, I’d been used to there being lots of families around on a weekend. Cricket matches were a family day out on a Saturday and there would always be wives and kids in the clubhouse after the game. Pirates was a bit more spit and sawdust. The wives might come to watch for a while, but the club was mainly frequented by men. For me, that was just part of the learning about a different cricketing and social culture. There was always a great atmosphere at the club. We used to play our games over two days at a weekend and, as a bowler, there was nothing better than getting your overs out of the way on a Saturday, then turning up on a Sunday morning to watch the batsmen do the hard work, especially as play started at 9 a.m. on the second day. The Pirates’ ground was in a bowl, so we used to sit up on the banking and start up a scottle braai, a gas barbecue with a flat pan on top, and cook up breakfast for everyone. We’d take it in turns to get the bacon, the eggs, the sausages, and fill our faces with sandwiches while the batsmen went out to do their stuff. I would lose count of the number of times that someone would have just got a sandwich in their hand and a wicket would fall, prompting a distressed cry of: ‘Shit, I was looking forward to that sandwich. Can someone hold onto it for a while?’ I wasn’t paid to play for Pirates and I lived rent-free with the Skjoldhammers, but I did a few odd jobs to pay for my beer money. I helped out at Barry’s Labelpak business, for example, putting together packs of flat-packed furniture, I coached the Pirates kids on a Saturday morning and also did a bit of coaching at Rosemount Primary School during the week. At the school, I remember clipping one irritating lad round the back of the head when he wouldn’t do as I told him. I then got a bit worried when he said: ‘I’m going to go and tell the headmaster you did that.’ Fortunately, the headmaster was Paul Smith, the Pirates’ opening bowler. When the young lad went into the headmaster’s office, he said: ‘Mr Smith, Mr Hoggard just hit me round the back of the head.’ So Smithy hit him round the back of the head himself and said: ‘Well, you must have deserved it then. Now get back to your lesson straight away.’ Good job that wasn’t a few years later. I’d probably have got a lawsuit for doing that nowadays. The best job I had in Jo’burg was being a barman at the Wanderers’ ground for the big games there. The Pirates had a box and, naturally, they asked me to man the bar. I can’t say it was the most taxing of jobs. I didn’t even have to take cash because there was always some sort of raffle ticket system in operation. I just had to open a few bottles of beer, pour the occasional glass of wine and watch a lot of cricket. And it just so happened that England were touring South Africa that year, so I got to spend a full five days at the second Test when Mike Atherton and Jack Russell staged their famous rearguard action. They certainly worked a lot harder out there than I did up in the bar. But the important thing about my jobs was that they gave me enough beer money to take advantage of the opportunities for socialising provided by my thoughtful Pirates team-mates. There were plenty of them. Sometimes, I would go out the night before a game with the Smith brothers, Paul and Bruce, and we would put our cricket kit in the car before we went out. That way, we could stay out until the early hours, then drive to wherever we were playing, get a few hours’ kip in the car and wait for our team-mates to wake us up when they arrived. One important part of the procedure was that, before you went to sleep, you had to make sure that your car was under a tree and facing west, so you wouldn’t get burned by the sun when it came up in the morning. Drink-driving was just not an issue in South Africa in those days. There would be times when we would go on a night out and, while we were driving from one bar to another, everyone would jump out of the car at a red traffic light, run around the car until the lights turned to green, then the one standing nearest the driver’s door had to jump back in and start driving. Everyone else had to squeeze in as well if they could and, if they didn’t, they were left behind. There would be people jumping through windows, hanging onto the roof. We obviously thought it was funny at the time, but it seems like absolute bloody madness now. Another time when I was out with Bruce Smith, we’d ended up in the Cat’s Pyjamas (nice name), a 24-hour drinking place. For some reason, Bruce suggested we go to the Emmarentia Dam, which was a short drive away. He dared me to swim the 30 metres or so across it, run round a lamppost at the other side, and swim back again. In the clear-sighted wisdom created by God-knows-how-many bottles of Castle lager, I said I’d do it, as long as he did it with me. We parked up by the dam on an empty side street, took our clothes off in the car and walked to the dam, stark bollock naked. We started swimming across the dam and I was going fairly well, thinking: ‘Yep, this isn’t so bad, I’ll manage it no problem.’ Then it suddenly started thundering and lightning, which made me think we ought to get a move on. We swam across to the other side of the dam, ran round the lamppost and had swum halfway back across the other way when lightning struck the dam. I’ll never forget that feeling when the shock got through to me, sending tingles throughout my body. Even in my less-than-sober state, I was more than a bit worried. ‘Do you feel all right?’ Bruce asked me. ‘Erm, yes, I think so,’ I lied back. We were even more worried when we approached the shore and saw a police van parked up near our car. The policemen were wandering around, shining a light into the car and checking the surrounding areas. We stayed in the water† (#ulink_1e585406-cef3-50f6-9a9a-d942d6e6ad51) and hid in the reeds at the edge of the dam. ‘If I get caught here, stark bollock naked,’ I thought, ‘I really am in trouble.’ The police seemed to be there for ages and we ducked down every time they shone their torches towards the water. Thankfully they went eventually without spotting us and we scuttled off home to bed, feeling a lot more sober than we had done an hour or two before. I suppose that these days were my first real taste of freedom, the slightly wild days that everyone needs to get out of their systems. No real responsibilities, no ties, just a fantastic opportunity to make the most of. Some people get that when they go travelling or to university; I was being educated in a rather different sense, concentrating my studies on taking wickets and downing beer. I even ended up smoking cannabis once or twice, something I’d never even encountered back in Pudsey. And I’ll never forget the first time I tried it, with a bloke called Dean who I played indoor cricket with. We’d been out drinking and playing pool, and Dean then drove us in his VW Beetle to the top of a multi-storey car park that had amazing views over the whole of Jo’burg. He then took his weed out and rolled us a joint. In South Africa, the cannabis is so cheap that they don’t tend to mix it with tobacco, they just smoke the stuff on its own, which makes it pretty powerful, especially if you’ve never touched the stuff before. Dean had certainly touched the stuff before; I hadn’t. Unsurprisingly, it hit me in a big way. To start with, I got the giggles, uncontrollably. Whatever Dean said, it made me double up with laughter. We then went on to a 24-hour kebab and burger joint to satisfy our munchies. I remember ordering my kebab, sitting down for a while and then walking up to collect my food. All of a sudden, I started to feel really ill. I was going to pass out and I started to panic, thinking of all the stories you see on the news of people who die the first time that they take drugs. And I distinctly remember thinking: ‘I’m going to die, I’m going to die! I don’t want to die, I’m too young to die! What will my mum and dad say if I die like this, slumped in a kebab shop after taking drugs?’ As far as I know, I didn’t die on that occasion. I was woken up shortly afterwards by a big fat bloke handing me my kebab. But it shows how naïve and inexperienced I was that I thought I might be killed by smoking cannabis for the first time. And so my education continued. I’d better say at this point that, while all these shenanigans were going on away from the cricket field, I was still doing my stuff for the Pirates on a weekend. Both seasons that I was there I ended up as the club’s bowler of the season, something that still makes me proud when I think of it. If you’re turning up to a place where nobody knows you from Adam, the best possible way to make yourself popular is to prove you’re worth your salt as a cricketer. But more importantly, I really did learn a lot more than just how to live the high life in Jo’burg. Those stories are just the silly bits that stick in my memory the best. But my eyes were opened in a much broader sense by having to make friends in a foreign country, by learning the culture, working out what makes different people tick and how to fit in with them yourself. And I was doing this all on my own. I might not have had much in the way of responsibilities in Jo’burg, but the experience made me much more capable of standing on my own two feet in the future. It’s an experience that gave me a lot of confidence and one for which I shall always be extremely grateful. So thanks again, Ferg, another masterstroke. If those two years in Jo’burg helped to broaden my views of the world in general, it was during the two seasons I spent playing for Free State in Bloemfontein that I learnt some of my most enduring cricketing lessons. I was much more sensible there. The focus was well and truly on the cricket. Apart from the fact that I was playing in the first-class game rather than club cricket, the pitches were much more challenging for a seam bowler. Whereas in Jo’burg I’d been bowling at altitude, swinging the ball around on pitches that were often green mambas, in Free State there was no altitude and the tracks resembled the Ml. They were flat, flat, flat, so you had to do a bit more than run in and turn your arm over if you were going to get a decent batsman out. Ironically, it was bowling on a seam-friendly wicket at Headingley that had got me an invitation to Bloem in the first place, which was a complete and utter fluke. In August 1998, seventeen months or so after I’d finished my second season with the Pirates, South Africa had just lost a Test series in England and were having nets at Headingley before the start of a one-day series with England and Sri Lanka. By this time I was 21 and I wasn’t quite a regular in the Yorkshire side, but I was getting there. When the South Africans were in town, I was just coming back from injury and it was suggested that I go and bowl at them in the nets at Headingley. As they were preparing for a one-day series, I was bowling with a white ball and the practice pitches at Headingley were sporting, to say the least. It was swinging and seaming all over the place. I steamed in and I must have bowled out every South African batsman, more than once in some cases. Shaun Pollock, Jonty Rhodes, Hansie Cronje: it was quite a list of conquests. They made me look like the best bowler in the world. It was extremely generous of them. South Africa’s bowling coach on that tour was Corrie van Zyl, who was also a coach at Free State. After I’d finished bowling, he wandered up to me and casually enquired whether I had any plans for the winter. I didn’t, as it happened, so he asked if I fancied going out to Bloemfontein to act as cover for Free State’s bowlers. Given the time I’d had out in South Africa before, this was an opportunity that I wasn’t going to pass up. A couple of months later, I was on my way back there. I had to bide my time once I’d arrived, though, because the Free State management were reluctant to pick an overseas player ahead of the established locals, particularly in the SuperSport Series, the four-day competition. But I was bowling well in the nets, I turned in some decent figures in one-day cricket and took plenty of wickets in club cricket for the Peshwas. Above all, on those hard, flat pitches, I was learning the value of bowling maidens, boring a batsman out and making him give his wicket away. I wasn’t given a real run in the four-day stuff until February, but in my second game, against Eastern Province in Bloem, I got five for 60 in the first innings and two for 19 from twenty-one overs in the second innings. They couldn’t really drop me after that. I was lucky at Free State to play with some very handy cricketers and, when we were at full strength, we had a pretty powerful side. If they weren’t away on international duty, we had Gerry Liebenberg as captain, Hansie Cronje, Nicky Boje and, best of all for me, we had Allan Donald. Just to turn up at the Free State nets and watch AD go about his work was an inspiration. At the time, there was no bigger superstar in South African cricket, but he would have as much time for a young lad at the Bloemfontein nets as he would for Hansie Cronje. A nicer, more modest and down-to-earth bloke you couldn’t ever wish to meet. Within a few weeks of me being there, AD had roped me in as a babysitter for Hannah and Oliver, his kids, while he and Tina went out for the evening. We’ve been firm friends ever since. He was also a real help with my bowling. When I arrived in Bloem, I was having a few problems with my run-up and bowling lots of no-balls. To my amazement, AD took me to one side and took a load of time to help me get it right. He moved markers, watched my take-off and landing, and helped me to work out how I could find my rhythm. With his help, I soon got myself sorted. He also gave me a few tips on reverse-swing, which I didn’t know much about in those days. I was playing in one game at Goodyear Park when AD was just watching, playing with his kids on the boundary and having a drink with the groundsman in the family enclosure. I was bowling at the time but, in the overs in between, I was fielding on the third-man boundary and I signalled to AD to come over for a chat. He came down and I said to him: ‘Al, I need to know something. It’s reversing out there, and I know how to reverse it in to the batsman, but how can I get it to go away?’ ‘You know how you try to bowl inswingers with a normal ball, pushing it in with your fingers and your wrist?’ he said. ‘Well, just turn the ball over so the shine’s on the other side and try to do that. You watch, it’ll swing the other way.’ So halfway through my next over, after I’d bowled a couple of inswingers, I did exactly as he’d said. Would you believe it, the ball swung the other way, the batsman got a big nick and was caught behind. The first bloody ball I’d tried it! I yelled in celebration, turned round and pointed with both hands at AD in the family enclosure, where he gave me the thumbs-up back. In one-day cricket, he used to bowl as first change while I shared the new ball with Herman Bakkes, another right-arm swing bowler. But in one particular one-day match, not long after I’d arrived there, we were playing at home against KwaZulu-Natal. They had a dangerous pinch-hitter called Keith Forde who opened the innings and Gerry Liebenberg said that we wanted our best bowlers bowling at him, which meant AD taking the new ball instead of me. Fairly understandable, I suppose, but I was still a bit pissed off at the lack of confidence shown in me. Anyway, within the first couple of overs, Herman got Forde out, clean bowled, and Gerry said, ‘Get loose, Hoggy. You’re on at AD’s end next over.’ So I warmed up quickly and, with my third ball, I trapped their number three, Mark Bruyns, lbw plumb in front. As we celebrated the wicket, Gerry came up to me and said: ‘Hoggy, I know you’ve just taken a wicket, but they’ve got Jonty Rhodes coming in next. We want our best bowlers bowling at him, so you’re coming off at the end of this over and I’m bringing AD back on.’ Now that really did piss me off. I went back to my mark in a huff and steamed in at Jonty. His first ball was outside off stump and he left it. The next one nipped back into him and ripped out his middle stump for a duck.† (#ulink_8868c9d4-8f1c-5f01-88e1-f230ec4cf5c0) I sprinted down the pitch, arms in the air, and went straight to Gerry, who was keeping wicket, and shouted: ‘JONTY F***ING WHO?’ I think Jonty heard me on his way off and, a couple of years later, I did offer a belated apology and explained why I’d reacted like a nutter. I was a teensy-weensy bit wound up at the time. I think I’d made my point to Gerry in the best possible way and I was allowed to complete my spell, so on that occasion at least AD had to wait his turn. No doubt about it though, AD will go down as one of the real good guys of the game. The same probably can’t be said of Hansie Cronje, although I have to say I was as shocked as anyone when all the stuff about his match-fixing was revealed. I got to know him fairly well, or so I thought (as did many other people). When you share a dressing-room with someone, you tend to think that you know someone pretty well, but that certainly wasn’t true in Hansie’s case. He was captain of South Africa while I was at Free State and you could see why everyone thought so highly of him as a skipper. He was a really positive character, building everybody up so they felt good about themselves. Funnily enough he was also big on discipline, drilling it into everyone that you should always arrive early, whether it’s for a practice or a game, to make sure that you’re in the best possible frame of mind. I liked the guy and I was absolutely flabbergasted when the news broke of his wrongdoing. I would never have guessed it of him. I mentioned a little earlier that, off the field, my time in Bloemfontein was spent much more sensibly than those slightly wilder days in Jo’burg. That was partly because I was a couple of years older, partly because the cricket was more serious and partly because Sarah came out to stay with me in Bloem, so I had someone to keep me company in the evening. Having said all that, our time in Bloem was not without its incidents, often involving cars rather than alcohol (and not the two mixed together this time). One such escapade occurred in my second season with Free State, in 1999-2000, at the same time as England were playing a Test series in South Africa. I was driving with Sarah down from Bloemfontein for a few days’ break in Cape Town, which is about a ten-hour drive. At least, it should be a ten-hour drive, but I got badly lost, so it mushroomed into the small matter of a thirteen-hour drive. To try and make up for lost time, I ended up in a bit of a hurry, and whenever I got the chance to put my foot down I put it ALL THE WAY down. We had a motor that could shift, because we were in a BMW belonging to Andy Moles, the Free State coach. For most of the journey, Sarah was fast asleep alongside me because we’d been out with Molar the night before and she was suffering. Or maybe it was the quality of the conversation that was sending her to sleep. Occasionally, she’d open her eyes and say: ‘Slow down, will you, Matthew? You’ve got to keep an eye out for the speed cops.’ So I would slow down while her eyes were still open, then speed up again when she went back to sleep. Sarah must have been dead to the world when I came to one massive straight road, like a huge wide Roman road, on which there was no other traffic whatsoever for miles and miles and miles. I put my foot down and had reached about 180 kph (about 110 mph) when a policeman stepped out from behind a bush with a cardboard sign saying: ‘Stop!’ Sounds like a cartoon, I know, but it felt real enough at the time. I slammed on the brakes and managed to come to a halt—about half a mile down the road—and reversed all the way back to say hello to the nice policeman. Once he’d established that I wasn’t a local, he said: ‘Have you got your passport on you?’ I said no, even though my passport was with my kit in the boot of the car. ‘Have you got any other ID?’ he said. I gave him my international driver’s licence. ‘What are you doing over here?’ he asked, and I told him that I was playing cricket. He thought for a moment or two, while he wrote out a speeding ticket, and then said: ‘Hey, you’re not here playing for England, are you?’ ‘Yep, I sure am,’ I lied again. The policeman paused for thought again, then started smiling. ‘Oh, I don’t think you need to worry about that ticket, then. You can tear it up, on one condition.’ ‘What’s that?’ ‘You give me your autograph.’ So I gave him my autograph, shook his hand and got back in the car. I just counted myself lucky that he didn’t know enough about the England team—or the Free State team, come to think of it—to realise that I was telling him a fib. I hate to think of him sitting down to watch the Test match, telling his mates he’d got one of the England players’ signatures, then discovering that he’d actually been diddled and the bloke whose autograph he had was playing a game in front of two men and a baboon down in Cape Town. I imagine he’d have been pretty peeved, but I hope he didn’t rip the ticket up and throw it straight in the bin, because a few months later I made my Test debut. My autograph might actually have been worth having then… † (#ulink_0290caf0-e378-58a0-86da-dc2a03a3446e)HOGFACT: There are more atoms in a teaspoon of water than there are teaspoons of water in the Atlantic Ocean. I know, I’ve counted them. † (#ulink_55da187f-54da-53c6-856b-3156a81826a1)HOGFACT: In Minnesota it is illegal to cross state lines with a duck on your head. Well, why wouldn’t it be? TOP 5 ANGRIEST BATSMEN I have a morbid fascination for watching an angry batsman when he gets back to the dressing-room, throwing his bat and gloves and having a paddy. I suppose it’s a bit like watching car-crash television, only very close up. At Yorkshire we used to have spread bets about how many times Michael Bevan would say ‘f***’ in his first minute back in the dressing-room. The spread was normally between 40 and 50. Here are five of the angriest: MICHAEL BEVAN I once saw him come into the changing-room after a bad decision and sit underneath a shower fully clothed, still wearing all his batting gear, pads and all. MARK RAMPRAKASH In India in 2001 there looked to be a serious danger that Ramps might punch a dressing-room attendant who was a bit too attentive shortly after he had been given out. NASSER HUSSAIN Once gave me a bollocking for not getting him a drink out of the fridge in Pakistan. He was sitting right next to the fridge, I was at the other side of the room. DARREN LEHMANN Boof had just been run out by a bad call from Gavin Hamilton at Scarborough. I was at the other side of the ground and I could hear Boof in the dressing-room shouting: ‘Stupid f***ing Scottish prick!’ If I could hear it, Gav, still out in the middle, would certainly have been aware of Boof’s feelings. ANTHONY McGRATH When we were playing in the Yorkshire second team, I was sitting in the dressing-room when Mags came back after playing a stupid shot. He started throwing his kit around, f-ing and blinding, and everyone else cleared out of the dressing-room. When everybody had cleared off, and there was only me and him left, he smiled at me and said: ‘I thought I should do that to make it look as though I’m bothered.’ 4 England Calling (#ulink_f8698f3c-d964-5e9e-9476-9d5f5579a19e) I had just got out of the shower and was brushing my teeth when the call came through from David Graveney. It was June 2000 and we were living in our first house together at the time, on Moorland Avenue in Baildon, and Sarah came rushing into our little en-suite bathroom from the bedroom. She had a look of shock on her face and her eyes were about to pop out of her head. She was holding the phone out to me with one hand, pointing to it with her other and mouthing the words: ‘OH…MY…GOD…IT’S… DAVID…GRAVENEY!’ This came completely out of the blue for me. I’d been bowling quite well for Yorkshire, but I really hadn’t thought yet about playing for England. I was 23 (and a half), not long back from my second season with Free State in Bloemfontein, but I still hadn’t really played a full season of county cricket. We had a load of talented bowlers at Yorkshire at the time and, to my mind, I had my hands full just hanging onto my place at the club. But who was I to argue with David Graveney, the chairman of selectors? I took the phone from Sarah and Grav said: ‘You’re coming down to Lord’s for the second Test against West Indies. It’s not just one of those things where we’ve picked you for the experience, so be prepared to play.’ ‘Erm, right, OK. Thanks very much. Thanks for letting me know. Much appreciated.’ I don’t think I’ve ever been so polite to anyone in my life. I went back into the bedroom, told Sarah and she started jumping around the room. Then we rang our parents and everyone else we could think of to tell them. Ringing my dad was particularly special. Playing at Lord’s for England was a long way from our games messing about at Post Hill with a big tree for wickets. As far as I knew, the stumps in Test cricket would not be a sapling six feet high and three feet wide and you wouldn’t be given out for hitting Curtly Ambrose for a six over some trees (wishful thinking, I know). I think the game that had probably put me into the selectors’ minds was a televised Benson & Hedges Cup one-day game a few weeks earlier against Surrey at Headingley. I had a shaved, bald bonce at the time, which probably helped to get me noticed, as it would have been the first time a lot of people had seen me in action. But I didn’t bowl too badly either. The ball was swinging round corners and I got out Mark Butcher, Graham Thorpe, Ali Brown and Adam Hollioake. Not a bad haul. When it came to the morning of the game itself, we didn’t know until shortly before the toss whether I was playing or whether they’d go for Robert Croft, the spin option. I was hoping for clouds, Crofty was hoping for blue skies, and there was actually a bit of both. It was an agonising wait. Crofty kept coming up to me and saying: ‘Do you know who’s playing yet?’ ‘No,’ I’d say. ‘Do you know.’ ‘No bloody idea yet.’ ‘How about we say that the first one to get their whites on gets to play?’ In those situations, as your stomach churns with nerves, there’s probably a tiny part of you that thinks: ‘God, maybe my life would be a lot easier if they went for Crofty. I might get smashed everywhere if I play and never get picked again.’ But it was only about one per cent of my brain that was thinking that. The rest was praying that I would get the nod. And about fifteen minutes before the toss, Alec Stewart, who was captain for that game, came up and told me that I was in. I vividly remember turning up in the dressing-room for that game as the new boy, never an easy experience. I was quite lucky, because there was Craig White, Darren Gough and Michael Vaughan, all Yorkshire team-mates, but it was still quite a scary place to walk into. In one corner there would be Thorpey, Stewie and Mike Atherton, the older guys, in another there’d be the likes of Andrew Caddick and Graeme Hick. It was quite a cliquey setup at that time and I can imagine it being a fairly horrible place to walk into if you didn’t know anyone. But the Yorkshire lads made it easier for me, especially Goughie, who crossed the boundaries between the different groups. That was the era before central contracts came in and selection was much less consistent in those days. As a result, I think that players in general were a bit more concerned with looking after themselves. Not in a way that was particularly unpleasant, but in my later years as an England player there was a much more welcoming feel to the dressing room and that came about through consistency of selection. It is much easier to play for the team if you know you’re going to be part of the team for the next game. That’s not intended as a criticism of particular individuals; insecurity is a perfectly natural reaction when you’re not sure of your place in the team. But the whole experience of playing for England was just a massive thrill, especially to be starting out at Lord’s, which is always that little bit more special, especially for a wide-eyed lad from Pudsey. I particularly remember opening my big box of prezzies, containing all my different pieces of England kit, and thinking: ‘Bloody hell, do I get to keep all this?’ I was glad when we were bowling first because that meant no more waiting around to get on with the damn thing. Caddy and Goughie didn’t bowl too well to start with and the Windies were none down when I came on from the Pavilion End in the eleventh over. My first ball was to Sherwin Campbell, who absolutely slapped it, but it went straight to cover. PHEWEE! I then managed to make him play and miss a couple of times and my first over in Test cricket was a maiden, which helped me to breathe a big sigh of relief. I bowled okay in that initial spell, but didn’t get any wickets and got a bit of a tap in my last couple of overs. As a first bowl in Test cricket, though, it could have gone worse. I also took a catch when Campbell top-edged a hook off Dominic Cork to fine leg. I made a right old meal of it, rolling over backwards after I’d caught it. It was swirling in the air† (#ulink_2222c3d2-6d43-5767-b1bb-9fc950cfc514) for ages and I could feel my heart thumping in my chest like a drum. But I clung on, heard the crowd cheer and thought, ‘Yep, I could get used to this.’ In the second innings, the West Indies were bowled out for 54, which wouldn’t even have been a good score down at Post Hill with a big tree for stumps. I didn’t bowl in the second innings, but I can’t say I was too disappointed, because wickets were falling all the time. Piece of cake, Test cricket. Then, of course, we had a run chase in the fourth innings that didn’t quite go according to plan. Chasing 188 to win, we still needed 39 when Nick Knight was the seventh man out and, as number eleven, I had to put my pads on. At that stage, I’m not ashamed to say, I was ABSOLUTELY POOING MYSELF. The situation only got worse when Caddy was lbw to Ambrose, leaving us 160 for eight. For anyone on their Test debut, that would be a fairly nerve-wracking situation. For a number eleven batsman potentially going out to face Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh with a Test match in the balance, it just didn’t seem fair. I didn’t get picked for England to score runs, but that, I thought, was how I was going to be judged. And this was the second match in a five-Test series, with England already 1-0 down, so if we lost at Lord’s, the series was as good as gone. I just sat there in the dressing-room, rigid in my seat with all my body armour on: helmet, chest guard, arm guard, thigh pad, bat between my legs, resting my chin on the top of the handle. I’d actually batted quite well in the first innings, when I got 12 not out, slogged Curtly and survived a few balls that whistled past my lugholes. But that wasn’t giving me any more confidence in this situation. One second I’d be thinking: ‘Please, please, please don’t let me have to go in.’ Then, a couple of moments later, another thought would flash through my mind: ‘What happens if we only need four to win and I go out and bash one through the covers to do it?!’ No. Calm down, Hoggy, calm down. How about: ‘What happens if it’s four to win and I miss a straight one?’ Far more likely. For every run that was scored by Corky or Goughie, everybody was on their feet. For every ball that was stopped by a fielder, there was a groan of disappointment. I just stayed silent. Then Corky nudged Walsh through the off-side for four, we had won and everybody was jumping around, screaming and celebrating like mad. So I did the same. The next Test was at Old Trafford, on a more spin-friendly surface, so Crofty came back into the side and I wasn’t required for the rest of the series, but I was picked for the winter tours to Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Much to my surprise, I found Pakistan a most hospitable place to a seam bowler, at least as far as the wickets for practice matches were concerned. On pitches that seemed to have been tailor-made for me, I managed the ridonculous stat of taking 17 wickets in two first-class matches. Mind you, I seem to remember Marcus Trescothick turning his arm over and conning a few people out with his wobbly seamers, so taking wickets can’t have been that difficult. Despite picking up all those wickets, I didn’t get a sniff at the Test side because Caddy and Goughie were well established as the first-choice quick bowlers. They were a good opening pair who complemented each other well: one was a lanky git, the other a short arse; one a bit short of self-belief, the other with enough confidence for both of them and the rest of the team put together. They worked well together, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a keen rivalry between two players in the same team. On one tour to the subcontinent, Caddy developed a habit of occasionally coming off the field during the warm-up games. Nothing unusual there; bowlers often do that in the build-up to a Test series to rest a niggle or strain. But during one warm-up match, he came off the field when we hadn’t taken too many wickets and the opposition were scoring plenty of runs. Goughie was not amused, and at the end of the day’s play he had a go at Caddy. ‘I’ve been sweating my bollocks off out there, busting a f***ing gut while you sit on your arse in the dressing-room. You’re not f***ing injured, but if you do that again, I’m going to break your f***ing legs.’ That was not an untypical exchange between them. They were mates, up to a point, and keen for the other one to take a few wickets, as long as they were taking more wickets themselves. I reckon that each of them always kept a precise tally of how many Test wickets the other had taken. How petty can you get? Both of them are good pals of mine, but I would never dream of slipping into a conversation with either of them the fact that Goughie took 229, Caddy got 234 and I got 248. The thought would simply never enter my head. Anyway, back to my early days with England. After failing to make much headway on the tours to Pakistan and Sri Lanka, I had to wait until the following season for my first Test wicket. I was called up for my second cap against Pakistan at Old Trafford, where I managed to pick up three wickets in each innings. There had been plenty of times in the preceding eleven months, since my debut against West Indies, when I had wondered whether I would ever take a Test wicket, but the all-important first one came when Younis Khan shouldered arms to one of my devilish outswingers that fails to swing. And I’m not absolutely sure that the ball was going on to hit the wickets. BUT WHO CARES? I’D WAITED ALMOST A YEAR FOR THIS!!! A few overs later, I had Inzamam-ul-Haq caught, slicing a drive to Ian Ward in the gully. Now that one was definitely out and I was beginning to feel a bit more like a proper Test cricketer. Unfortunately, I injured my knee shortly afterwards and missed the whole of the 2001 Ashes series. Maybe my body sensed that there was a very good team coming up and decided to give me a break. That ailment also meant that I only played seven matches in the season that Yorkshire won the County Championship for the first time in thirty-three years. I was still working my way back to full fitness with a few one-day games when the title was wrapped up against Glamorgan at Scarborough, but I was fit enough to join in the celebrations. It was a particular triumph for David Byas, our long-suffering captain, and Darren Lehmann, our incomparable overseas player who was such an influence on my generation at Yorkshire. The first time I encountered Darren, or ‘Boof’, as he is universally known, I was a second-teamer turning up to practice at the start of a new season. On days like that, you have a look around to check out for the usual suspects and for any unfamiliar faces. I remember saying to Chris Silverwood: ‘Spoons, who’s that short, fat bastard over there?’ ‘That’s the new overseas player,’ Spoons said. ‘It can’t be,’ I said. ‘He’s fat.’ But one look at Darren Lehmann with a bat in his hand and we knew immediately what a class act we had on our hands. This is someone who makes the game look ridonculously easy. He could have walked into other any Test team in our era and he should have played much more for Australia. His confidence, his personality and his competitive steeliness worked wonders in the Yorkshire dressing-room. As captain we had David Byas, who was strict, straightforward and basically had the attitude: ‘I’m the captain, you’re not and I don’t really care if you like me, you’ll do as I say.’ Boof, as senior pro and vice captain, was a good foil. He was one of the lads, but if a bollocking needed to be given he wouldn’t hesitate to hand it out. He’s a laid-back guy, but knows exactly when to flick the switch to go into his match mode. That is a difficult balance for a player to strike; few people can do it successfully, but then few people have been as good as Darren Lehmann. Yes, he liked a beer or three after a game and he was a bit old-fashioned in that way, but you would never find him giving less than his all in a match. I’ll never forget playing in the game after the championship had been clinched at Scarborough in 2001. Two days afterwards, we had a Sunday League game against Nottinghamshire and, in the celebrations of the previous two nights, Boof had certainly not taken a back seat. This was evident from the fact that, before he went out to bat on the Sunday, there was still a pool of champagne left in his upturned helmet from the post-match party we had held in the dressing-room. When the second wicket fell against Nottinghamshire and his turn had come to bat, he picked up his helmet, swigged the champagne from it, popped it on his head and announced: ‘Right, watch this, boys. This could be special.’ He was as good as his word. He proceeded to score 191 off 103 balls, which was one of the most amazing innings I’ve ever seen. He was playing some incredible shots, down on one knee, hitting it over the keeper’s head, swatting it between fielders with one hand, pretty much doing as he chose. Nobody else could have played an innings like it. It was extraordinary. A few years later, I shared a bit of a stand with Boof against Sussex at Arundel when the ball was reverse-swinging all over the shop. James Kirtley was curving it wickedly away from me one ball, then back into me next ball, I didn’t have a clue which way it was going to go from one ball to the next. So at the non-striker’s end, Boof said: ‘I think you need a bit of help here, Hog. I’ll have a look at how the bowler’s holding the ball in his run-up. If I hold the bat in my right hand, it’s coming in to you. If I hold my bat in my left hand, it’ll go away. If my bat’s in between, I haven’t got a clue.’ And every time he went right or left, he was absolutely spot on. I had a marvellous time, suddenly started looking like a competent batsman, and there were some looks of genuine surprise on the faces of the Sussex fielders. In that same innings, Mushtaq Ahmed was bowling at the other end from Kirtley. Boof had reached his 100 by this time and he was ready for a bit of fun, so he said: ‘Right, Hoggy, where do you want me to put Mushy’s next ball?’ I had a look around the ground and said: ‘Oh, just plonk it on top of that marquee, will you, Boof?’ The next ball was fullish in length. Boof bent down to sweep, put his bottom hand into it and duly deposited the ball on top of the marquee at mid-wicket, as requested. ‘OK, Hog, where shall I put the next one?’ he said. ‘I think I’ll go over mid-on this time.’ Sure enough, Mushy’s next ball disappeared over mid-on, and I started creasing myself as I wandered down the wicket. ‘OK, Boof, what’s next?’ I asked. ‘We’re gonna run two into the covers, OK?’ And you can guess what happened next ball. He called it perfectly. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I’m not sure I’d have believed it. And this was against Mushtaq Ahmed, not some second-rate bowler just called up from the second team. I’ve seen plenty of other people try a stunt like this and come a cropper, predicting that the next ball would be a bouncer only to have their middle stump ripped out by a yorker. I might even have been guilty of trying it myself on the odd occasion. But Boof was different. It was a privilege to play alongside him. And a hell of a giggle. The winter after we won the championship with Yorkshire, I underwent something of a dramatic transformation as an international bowler. Without so much as playing another game for England, I went from being a novice who had only played two Tests to become the leader of England’s attack. Compared with Jimmy Ormond (one cap), Richard Johnson and Richard Dawson (both uncapped), I was a grizzled, gnarled veteran with the grand total of six Test wickets. We were supported by a couple of all-rounders in Andrew Flintoff and Craig White, but this was hardly an attack to make Sachin Tendulkar toss and turn at night. This was the tour that came shortly after the 9/11 terrorist atrocities in the US and Andrew Caddick and Robert Croft had opted not to tour. Alec Stewart and Darren Gough had already decided to take the winter off and Mike Atherton had just retired. As a result, we were huge underdogs, there was very little expected of us, but we scrapped and scrapped for everything, and did fairly well to restrict India to a 1-0 win in the three-Test series. Myself and Freddie both did our bit with the ball, and pride was certainly maintained. This was also the Test series when Phil Carrick’s prediction that VVS Laxman and I, both former team-mates at Pudsey Congs all those years ago, would play each other in a Test match came true. Seven years after he had made it, I was walking onto the outfield at Mohali to warm up for the first Test and I saw Lax having a net with the rest of the Indian lads at the other side of the ground. I looked up to the sky and said: ‘Who’d have thought it, Ferg? You were right.’ Taking on the might of India with a group of spotty youths, we needed a strong and stern headmaster to guide us in the right direction. We had just the man in Mr Nasser Hussain, who did a great job in keeping order in the class. Not that I always saw eye-to-eye with him, and there were a few occasions when I thought I might end up getting the cane. At the end of that first Test in Mohali, we had a massive barney. Or rather, he had a massive barney at me. We’d been pretty much outplayed throughout that game and our batting had collapsed fairly meekly to 235 all out in the second innings, just avoiding an innings defeat. India then needed only five runs to win, so they opened the batting with Iqbal Siddiqui, a tail-end slogger who had batted at number ten in the first innings. Nasser didn’t like them doing this. I think he was fairly insulted. As I was opening the bowling, he told me to bounce Siddiqui and make them think twice about doing this sort of thing again. Even though they only wanted five to win, he wanted to show that we were still scrapping. So Muggins here thought: ‘Bollocks to that, I’m going to try to get him out.’ So I pitched the ball up outside off stump. It was quite a good ball, Siddiqui had a go at it and snicked it through the slips for four. Next ball he clipped one through the leg-side and it was game over. Back in the dressing-room, I got the biggest bollocking of my life. ‘If I tell you to bowl a f***ing bouncer, I want you to run in and bowl a f***ing bouncer!’ Nasser yelled in my face. ‘You don’t see f***ing McGrath and f***ing Ambrose coming in and bowling piddly half-volleys on leg stump.’ And so it went on. ‘F-this, F-that and F-the F***ing other.’ All of which basically amounted to me getting an almighty bollocking for failing to defend a TARGET OF FIVE. This happened in front of everybody else in the dressing-room and it made me really upset. When we had to go back out onto the field for the presentation ceremony, I was standing on my own with tears in my eyes. It was my third Test match and I’d just been given the rollicking of my life by the captain when I barely felt that I deserved it. I had people coming up to me and putting their arm round me telling me not to worry about it. But it was a bit late for that. A couple of hours later, back at the hotel, I was still seething in my room when there was a knock on the door. It was Duncan Fletcher, the coach. I hadn’t had much to do with Fletch up to this point, because he tended to keep himself to himself in the dressing-room and only intervene when he felt it necessary. He clearly felt it necessary this time and said: ‘Don’t take it personally. Nass was just really het up. You didn’t deserve it.’ Half an hour later there was another knock on the door. Nass walked in and gave me a cuddle, told me that he was sorry and walked out again. Fair enough. That was Nass. He was a very intense, very fiery character, but deep down he can be a really lovely, compassionate guy. When his emotions got the better of him, he could be a complete and utter twat, but I don’t think he ever meant badly. Nass was Nass. The first time I had encountered his temper had been on that first tour to Pakistan the previous winter. At one of the Test matches, I was one of three or four twelfth men who would take it in turns, session by session, to run errands out onto the field, while the other twelfth men stayed to look after the dressing-room. On one of the sessions that I was on duty, Nasser had just been dismissed. At the fall of the wicket, I’d done my duty by running down to look after the batsman out in the middle, Mike Atherton, taking him a spare pair of gloves, a drink and some ice. I then went back up to the dressing-room, sat down in my seat and started sending a text message to my missus. (Those were the days when we were still allowed mobile phones in the dressing-room.) All of a sudden, across the other side of the room, Nasser erupted: ‘I’ll get my own f***ing drink then, shall I?’ he shouted at me. At this time, he was sitting right next to the fridge and could have reached over to open the door himself to get a drink. I was sitting miles† (#ulink_656dc73e-8a97-5095-b642-d25e3b658f87) away from the fridge, presuming that I’d done my duties by attending to Athers. But poor old Nass was a bit upset at getting out and I was in the firing line. I heard a couple of the lads sniggering behind me but didn’t think it wise to join in. I don’t think Nass was in the mood to see the funny side at the time. So I had plenty of run-ins with Nass because he was a strict disciplinarian as captain and, in those days, I was one of the class clowns. There was one practice day during a one-day series in Zimbabwe when I had taken to making chicken noises all day. I can’t remember why, but I’m sure there was a very sensible, grown-up reason for doing so. For some reason, Nass was getting a bit fed-up of the chicken noises, so he bought Chris Silverwood into the dressing-room and said: ‘Spoons, your job is to keep that twat over there quiet. If I hear any more bird noises out of him. I’m sending the pair of you back to England.’ Spoons and I looked at each other and both started clucking at the top of our voices. Nasser just burst out laughing, shouted, ‘Piss off,’ and legged it out of the dressing-room. Just as well he saw the funny side, really. I wouldn’t have wanted my international career to end for making a few bird noises. His stricter side was more evident out in the middle. Whenever I bowled a bad ball, I’d turn round to walk back to my mark and see him kicking the dirt at mid-off, which I’m not sure was the most constructive of responses. But Nass did a hell of a lot of good for English cricket while he was captain. He is an immensely passionate person and that rubbed off on a lot of people. His relationship with Fletch was the catalyst for our recovery. They started the consistency of selection that helped to create such a healthy dressing-room environment. Once the older brigade had gone, you wouldn’t just go out with your mates in the same groups for a meal in the evening. Anybody could go out with anybody else. I think that tour to India, with such a young team, gave Nass and Fletch the opportunity to really stamp their mark on the England team and its culture. And in the longer term we were much better for it. For the tour that followed to New Zealand in early 2002, we had a couple of older heads back on board and drew the Test series 1-1. The first Test in Christchurch was one of the most bizarre in history, played on a drop-in pitch that seamed about all over the place to start with and then became flatter as the game went on. Nass made a magnificent hundred out of 228, then I got seven for 63 as we skittled them for 147. Nice to have a slightly friendlier pitch to bowl on after slogging away on those dead tracks in India. We then set New Zealand 550 to win after Thorpey had made a double-century and Fred hit his first hundred, so our victory was just a matter of time. Or so you would have thought. By now, the pitch was as flat as a fart and Nathan Astle started to chance his arm. The result was that he scored the fastest double-hundred in Test history, hitting sixes left, right and centre. It was a freakish innings. The ball kept going just over someone’s head, or landing just out of somebody else’s reach, but he certainly made the most of his luck. Chris Cairns had been injured and came in at number eleven—he only came in because they had an outside chance of victory—and when they whittled the target down to fewer than 100 to win, we were feeling seriously jittery. I don’t think we’d have been allowed back to England if we had conceded 550 to lose a Test. Come to think of it, I’m not sure we would have wanted to return. So just when I was wondering whether I would be spending the rest of my life shearing sheep in New Zealand, I managed to get Astle out, caught behind by James Foster off a slower ball. There was a photo in the papers the next day of me celebrating and all the veins looked like they were going to pop out of my neck. We were that relieved. We may have only drawn the series but I took seventeen wickets in the three Tests and was starting to feel like this Test cricket lark might not be quite so bad after all. As ever with this game, though, you can never make yourself too comfortable. The saying that you are only as good as your last game is one of sport’s biggest clichés, but as an international cricketer it’s something you’re of aware of all the time. You could play like a king one game, but then as soon as you mess up in the next match the first game may as well have never happened. Get ahead of yourself and the game will catch you up and bite you on the bum. In the first Test of the 2002 English season, against Sri Lanka at Lord’s a couple of months later, I really struggled. I took a couple of wickets, but I went for more than four an over and I was some way short of my best. To make matters worse, before the second Test at Edgbaston I played a Benson & Hedges Cup game for Yorkshire against Essex and got knocked around by Nasser Hussain, of all people, who hit a hundred. Great timing to come up against the England skipper when I was scraping the barrel for anything resembling form. When I turned up at Edgbaston, my confidence levels were fairly low and Duncan Fletcher knew it. Whether Nass had had a word in his ear or not, I don’t know. In the old changing-rooms at Edgbaston there was a small coach’s office off to one side, and Fletch called me in. ‘Uh-oh,’ I thought. ‘This could be bad news.’ ‘Sit down, Hoggy,’ said Fletch. So I did, and held my breath. ‘I just wanted to ask you whether you want to play in this Test match,’ he said. ‘Hell, yes, of course I do, Fletch.’ ‘Do you think you are confident enough to play?’ Difficult question to answer. I wasn’t feeling on top of my game and there had been a bit of debate about whether I should hang onto my place. But if you tried to pick and choose your games at international level, waiting until you felt on top form, you’d be no use to anyone. ‘I know I haven’t been at my best in the last couple of weeks, Fletch, but I’m desperate to make it up in this game and, yes, I’ll back myself to do so. I definitely want to play.’ I was lucky at this point that I’d had a good winter in India and New Zealand and this was the time that Fletch was really trying to impose some consistency in the selection. He showed faith in me, gave me another chance and I was extremely chuffed to be able to repay that faith. I took a couple of top-order wickets in the first innings, got 17 not out with the bat, helping Thorpey to add 91 for the last wicket, and then picked up a five-fer in the second innings. We won by an innings and I was named Man of the Match. I was ecstatically happy after that game, pleased that I’d justified Fletch’s confidence in me and proud that I’d shown the balls to stand up and fight my corner. We had a team meal after the game and then went out to the Living Room in Birmingham. As David Brent would say, ‘El Vino did flow.’ That evening, I was due at my friend Tony Finch’s house on the outskirts of Birmingham for a barbecue. Sarah had gone there to wait for me and Allan Donald was there with Tina, his wife, and their kids. By the time I rocked up in a taxi rather late in the evening, I could barely speak. To get myself to Finchy’s house, I had to ring him up and pass the phone to the taxi driver because I was in no state to pass on directions. We finally got there and I continued to have a thoroughly marvellous time until it was time to for Sarah and me to go home in a taxi with AD and family. The only memory I have of that journey home is of Hannah, AD’s oldest, saying: ‘Daddy, why has Matthew got his head out of the window?’ AD said, ‘I don’t think he’s feeling too well, Hannah.’ So I was back on track and I then had a decent enough series against India, with the exception of Headingley, where the ball swung all over the place, they got 600-plus and, try as I might, I just couldn’t make Rahul Dravid play. It swung and he left it, time and again. I had a chat with Fletch about what was going wrong and he suggested that I go wider on the crease, but I wasn’t sure that he was right on this one. At very least, I wanted to try it out for myself, so between Tests I did a bit of work on my bowling with Steve Oldham, the Yorkshire bowling coach whom I respect. I practised quite a bit and, when I got to the Oval for the next Test, I told Fletch that I thought I’d solved my problems. When he watched me bowling, he said: ‘You’re just going wider on the crease. That’s exactly what I told you to do a week ago. Why didn’t you listen to me then?’ That was absolutely fair enough, but I had just wanted to try it out for myself and, before I made a major change in a Test match, to be comfortable and happy in myself that I was doing the right thing. I suppose what it really came down to is that I can be a stubborn sod at times, and Fletch is very stubborn as well, so there were a few occasions when immovable object met immovable object and friction was created as a result. I played in all seven Tests that summer and I was the leading wicket-taker against both Sri Lanka and India, so I must have done a few things right along the way. And at the end of the season, before we set off for my first Ashes series in Australia, I was awarded a central contract by the ECB. This meant better pay and a workload managed by the England coach. For the first time in my career, my job description was primarily to be an England player, rather than a Yorkshire player who might occasionally play for England. I won’t say that this meant I felt like part of the furniture or settled in the side, but it was at least a bit of evidence that the management had some confidence in my ability. Either that or they just wanted to make sure they could keep a closer eye on me. Whatever the reason, my main bosses were now at Lord’s rather than Headingley, and I didn’t even have to move to London. But it was beginning to look as though I might be a proper England player after all. † (#ulink_b096f134-3f65-5acc-b2ef-989538fafbb7)HOGFACT: A cough or sneeze makes the AIR in the human respiratory system move faster than the speed of sound. So if someone sneezes right in front of your face, you’ve got to be pretty sharp to get out of the way. † (#ulink_f8b9e651-0b11-508c-9ee3-f58ba5cdcd70)HOGFACT: The average housewife walks ten MILES a day around the house. I wonder how much of that is walking to the telephone and back to natter to her mother or her friends? ‘Daddy, Daddy, please can I do some words for your book?’ ‘Not just yet, Ernie. The nice people want to know all about all the things that Daddy likes to eat that make him big and strong.’ ‘But even the dogs have done some words, Daddy.’ ‘Maybe later, Ernie, if you’re a good boy…’ REVEALED OVERLEAF… The amazing drinking exploits of Andrew Flintoff… Sorry, I was there, but I don’t remember a single thing. 5 Meat and Three Veg (#ulink_128f1a96-7a53-5ce3-8de1-efeda504e744) This might sound a bit odd, but when I was younger I used to eat a lot of nettles. It was a bit of a party trick that I would perform from time to time to impress my school friends. I can’t remember exactly when or where I discovered it—some misspent afternoon or other when I should have been tidying my bedroom or doing my homework—but I must have read somewhere that if you hold the bottom of a nettle leaf when you pick it, then fold it carefully inwards, you don’t get stung. If you then put it in your mouth and chew it, you don’t feel a thing. And it tastes like, well, nettles I suppose. (Don’t try this at home, kids, unless you have a fully qualified nettle-handler in attendance, such as me.) As you might expect, not many 8-year-olds in Pudsey were aware of this advanced piece of Nettleology, so they never believed that I would dare to pick up nettles with my bare hands and eat them. So my party piece never failed to impress. No pocket money changed hands, I must stress; my nettle-eating was never a commercial venture. I did it purely to gain friends and influence among the short-trousered community in Pudsey. Funnily enough, I recently read on the internet that eating nettles actually makes your hair brighter, thicker and shinier. It also, apparently, makes your skin clearer, healthier and more radiant. Aha, I thought: So that’s why i’m so bloody gorgeons. Anyway, I only mention my nettle-eating antics because, as I’ve grown older, my eating habits have continued to be a bit weird. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fussy eater. On the contrary, there is hardly anything I don’t like. It’s just that I tend to be something of a mood eater: I eat when I feel like eating and, if I’m not in the mood, nothing will persuade me to put my snout into the trough. Sometimes I can go a whole day without eating until the evening. At other times I won’t be able to stop snacking all day long. As far as my cricket is concerned, this mood-eating tendency did not made me especially popular with the nutritionists who worked with the England team, making sure that we were following the right sort of diets. Since the introduction of ECB central contracts a few years ago, we have become the first generation of cricketers who are officially supposed to watch what we eat. Not only are we supposed to be cricketers these days, but we’re expected to be finely honed athletes as well. In theory, at least. Unfortunately, my mood-eating habits meant that I usually didn’t conform to the nutritionists’ idea of what makes for a healthy eating schedule. And their biggest bugbear was my preference for avoiding breakfast. Generally speaking, I just don’t do breakfast, because I don’t like eating as soon as I’ve woken up. I am, in fact, a GRUMPY GRUNTING GIT in the mornings and if I eat anything shortly after waking up it makes me feel physically sick. Which, in turn, only makes me even more grumpy. Now, I’m well aware that breakfast is supposed to be The Most Important Meal Of The Day. My mum told me that when I was a little lad and the nutritionists have told me umpteen times since. I know that it’s supposed to set you up for the day, get your brain and body going, regulate your appetite, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But it just doesn’t happen that way for me. And believe me, I’ve tried it plenty of times, and it always makes me feel grim. That might make me strange, it might mean that I don’t fit in with a nutritionist’s carefully conceived dietary programme, it might not be the right thing for a professional sportsman to do, BUT I JUST CAN’T SODDING WELL DO IT! I CAN’T, I CAN’T, I CAN’T! All England players are required to have a chat with a nutritionist on regular visits to the National Cricket Centre at Loughborough. Over the course of a day on Loughborough Univerity campus, you are put through something of a cricketer’s MOT. You have appointments with a representative of every branch of medical science known to man: the physiotherapist, the doctor, the podiatrist and the psychologist. There are fitness tests, eye tests, blood tests, skin tests, jockstrap fitting, underarm hair tests to ensure that your armpits aren’t too bushy. (One or more of the above may be fictional.) Then, if there’s any time left, you’ll have a chat with Mr Nutritionist, my favourite appointment of the day. My conversation with Mr Nutritionist would usually go something like this: Or Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/matthew-hoggard/hoggy-welcome-to-my-world/?lfrom=334617187) на ЛитРес. Безопасно оплатить книгу можно банковской картой Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, со счета мобильного телефона, с платежного терминала, в салоне МТС или Связной, через PayPal, WebMoney, Яндекс.Деньги, QIWI Кошелек, бонусными картами или другим удобным Вам способом.
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