Australia’s Ashes comeback just seems to be getting better with each passing day in the series. After dominating the Englishmen at Old Trafford, the visitors continued to hold the upper hand at stumps on day two as well at Chester-le-Street. Following the morning session, it seemed that Australia would be on the backfoot as the English bowlers hit back with quick wickets after themselves being bowled out for a paltry total of 238, without adding to their overnight score. Chris Rogers and Shane Watson however ensured that it remained Australia’s day.
The second day was essentially about the partnership between Rogers and Watson after the bowlers had given their team a great chance of going ahead in the Test. Rogers never looked comfortable out in the middle, but this was exactly why his innings was all the more incredible. It was a pitch that was assisting the pace bowlers to the hilt, so much so that even some more illustrious names in the team struggled. But, Rogers brought all his domestic experience into play, and notched up his maiden Test hundred at the ripe age of 35 – a stage where most players start contemplating retirement.
While Rogers was dogged throughout, Watson also had to battle a lot of demons, but the decision of sending him in at number six did the trick. At the back of his mind, Watson knew that he had to be wary of the lbw threat. Broad, Anderson and Bresnan, all tried to prey on his weakness, constantly targeting his pads, but Watson watchfully kept the danger balls away. And once he got his eye in, the strokes began to flow freely once again. He ended up striking seven boundaries, and his 129-run stand with Rogers neutralised the damage done by Broad earlier in the day.
Australia were lucky as their two best batsmen of the day received reprieves. At 34 for 2, Rogers was given out caught by Tony Hill. Replays showed that he did not hit the ball, but there was a chance of lbw since the ball was clipping the bails. However, since the appeal was for a catch, the Aussie opener got a reprieve. He was also dropped by Swann at slip, a difficult one-handed chance it was. Watson stroke of luck came when a tough return catch was grassed by Bresnan. Both used their luck to the hilt, before Watson was caught down the leg side for 68.
An expectedly nervous Rogers spent 19 balls on 96 before sweeping to get his maiden ton, as Australia ended the day on an impressive 222 for 5. Earlier in the day, it seemed that the honour of star of the day would belong to Broad. Making the ball talk, he knocked back David Warner’s stumps by late movement. Usman Khawaja too had no idea of his off stump and ended up edging a catch to prior. Skipper Clarke played a poor stroke by his standards, fishing at an away-going and rising delivery to give Broad his third wicket of the day. Steven Smith hung on gamely, but edged Bresnan to Prior when on 17 to leave Australia stuttering at 76 for 4. From thereon, it was the Roger-Watson show.
--By A Cricket Analyst