2005's 'Fab Four' Remembered

03/10/2013 16:27 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

On Friday 20 September, Matthew Hoggard left the field with bat aloft as his Leicestershire side were humbled, not for the first time this season, by a 180-run Hampshire win. Hoggard stood three not out in his final first class match, five years on from his last game in England colours.

Hoggard was a key figure in England's 2005 Ashes triumph, the series that has been dubbed "the greatest ever". He was part of the feared pace quartet, who along with the "King of Sp(a)in", Ashley Giles, made up England's finest bowling attack of recent times.

In the fab four, "Hoggy" was Ringo. He was the attack's metronome. The Yorkshireman was perhaps not as revered as his more exhilarating colleagues and he rarely provided the lead vocals (although when he did it was spectacular: his 'Yellow Submarine' moment came with a hat-trick at Bridgetown in 2004).

Hoggard never sought the limelight and the captain of that great team, Michael Vaughan, admits to even actively discouraging him from taking it, describing him as the "shop-floor worker" of his attack, with the three quicker bowlers being the more glamorous workers upstairs in the office, bringing in the big bucks. Working on the shop floor did not prevent Hoggard from taking 248 wickets for England, however, and he currently sits tied for seventh-place with Graeme Swann in his country's Test wicket-takers list. He often found himself on the shop-floor when batting too, as a brave and obdurate nightwatchman, and who could forget that cover drive at Trent Bridge?

Simon Jones has joined Hoggard in announcing his first-class and List A retirement, but will play on as a Twenty20 freelancer. The day after Hoggard exited stage left, all of Lords stood to applaud Jones' spell of 2-36 as Glamorgan lost to Nottinghamshire in the YB40 Final and he bowed out of the game, but for a few four over spells across the world over the next couple of years.

Jones was Lennon: at his best, he was perhaps the most devastating of the four, he was innovative (his reverse-swing in 2004-05 was feared the world over and set the benchmark for the likes of Jimmy Anderson today) and, ultimately, he was taken from England fans all too soon.

Victory in the fourth Ashes test of 2005 at Trent Bridge proved that every silver lining has a cloud as Jones limped out of the match with an ankle injury after a devastating first-innings 5-44. It was to be the last of the Welshman's injury-ravaged 18-match test career.

Steve Harmison is surely soon to be the last of the fab four to retire from cricket. As Durham romped to their third title in six years (against all odds), Harmison failed to make a single appearance. It was he who provided the aggression, the pace and steepling bounce, as he showed at Lords in the first Test of that great series when he drew blood from the face of the toughest of all England's Antipodean foes - Ricky Ponting.

Harmison's Test career was a roller-coaster ride of vertigo-inducing peaks and saddening troughs. Long-limbed and lethal on his day, Harmison, like Hoggard (with whom he shared the new ball), enjoyed his finest spell when this attack was on top of the world. He was devastating in the West Indies in 2004, but came back down to earth with a bump as his first ball of the return Ashes in 2006/07 series landed in Freddie Flintoff's hands at second slip.

Harmison is Harrison in the fab four. His best friend was Freddie (McCartney), he was a slightly reluctant leader and the group were only at their best when he was on top form (think 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps). 2005 for Harmison was like 1970 for Harrison, it all went a bit downhill from there.

Ah, Flintoff, the rabble-rouser in chief. He, of course, was the first to retire, in 2010, aged just 32. Like Paul McCartney, he has continued to forge a life for himself in all sorts of disciplines away from that for which he became famous, and is rarely off our television screens. He was the leader of the attack and the team's heartbeat and face, even if Vaughan (Brian Epstein) and Duncan Fletcher were the brains behind the operation.

As we bid farewell to them, the 18 months that these four men spent sweeping aside all before them will live long in the memory. This standard of cricket in this summer's Ashes series had nothing on the five act Greek comedy/tragedy (depending on which hemisphere you come from) that 2005 served up.

These four men stood centre stage with the potent combination of Harmison's pace, Flintoff's bounce, Hoggard's conventional swing and Jones' reverse swing neutering one of the finest batting line-ups in history. Until then, no one had found a way to consistently dismiss the likes of Hayden, Martyn and Gilchrist, all of whom struggled.

So, as Hoggard and Jones bow out and with Harmison surely soon to follow, let's all say this: Fred, Harmy, Hoggy and Jones, thank for the memories.