By Garfield Robinson
When Chris Rogers swept Graeme Swann to the square leg boundary shortly before bad light halted play on the second day of the fourth Ashes test, the 35-year old became the second oldest Australian to record a maiden test century. The oldest was 37-year-old Arthur Richardson who made an even century in 1926 at Leeds. It is doubtful he had to work as hard for his milestone as Rogers did for his unbeaten 101.
There were two other century-makers in the innings when Richardson achieved his landmark – Bill Woodfull 141 and Charles McCartney 151 – Shane Watson’s 68 has been the only score over 17 in the Australia’s top six. And while the visitors’ innings ended at 494 in 1926, it is unlikely, at 222/5 and the ball seaming all about, that they will get near that total this time round.
Batting was a battle from the beginning of the Australian innings. There was a sign of things to come when Jackson Bird, operating from over the wicket brought a ball back dramatically to crash into the left-handed James Anderson’s middle stump, wrapping up the England innings at 238.
You could say the left-hander from Sydney was born for such conditions. He is not a full-bloodied driver of the ball in the manner of his more flamboyant teammates, Shane Watson and David Warner. He mostly pushes and nudges, but is adept at the pull shot and takes full toll of anything on his legs. His back-lift is miniscule; he is a deft leaver of anything missing his off stump and he plays late. In other words, bowlers have to force him to play, and given the lateral movement that was in evidence all day, he was the player best equipped to combat the conditions and the bowlers.
Still, he did require a fair bit of luck to survive. There were quite a number of times when Stuart Broad especially, went past his blade by only a whisker. And when they did find his edge, soft hands meant the ball mostly went down. The one that went at catchable height to Graeme Swann at second slip was spilled and the resultant single took Rogers to his fifty.
Luck had run his way when he was reprieved by DRS after being given out caught at the wicket when only on 15. Rogers clearly knew he hadn’t connected with the delivery, but with the unreliability of the review system this series, he must have been relieved when the umpire reversed his decision.
The good thing is that he appeared completely unperturbed whenever he had a near miss, and faced the next delivery like the previous one came off the middle of his bat. Only when in the nineties did he seem jittery and remained on 96 for 19 deliveries – a few of which came close to terminating his innings.Unsurprisingly, there was a trace of desperation in the shot that brought him to his century.
For most of his time at the crease,Rogers was accompanied by Shane Watson, who played his best hand in what was a trying series for the aggressive opener. Demoted to six in the order he seemed mostly untroubled and together they added 131 very important runs in what should turn out to be a low-scoring game.
With a long and outstanding first-class career consisting of 243 games and over 20000 runs at an average of over 50, it might seem incongruous that the Rogers was ignored by his country for so long. He had only one test before the selectors looked his way again for this Ashes series, and that was way back in the 2007-2008 tour by India. It must have been difficult for him to see them prefer, again and again, players with significantly inferior credentials while he racked up 60 first-class hundreds for various English counties and for Western Australia.
Yet, with the call coming again at this late stage Rogers is sure to do his best to make it count. He has the good sense to know that he should treat perceived injustices of the past like the deliveries that beat his bat – forget about them. From here he could still go on to forge a fulfilling career in his country’s test team.
In an interview after stumps Rogers said he had somewhat given up hope of ever being recalled by his country. “After all this time you just don’t think that this opportunity is going to come up,” he admitted. There were times when he waited to hear his name mentioned by the selectors and felt his chance had passed each time it was never called. Given an opportunity at last, his joy must have been unbounded when his century came, and he knew he had made his mark on an Ashes series.
With Australia fielding such an inexperienced batting line-up Rogers should be able to remain a vital cog. His country, that had overlooked his claims for so long, might find itself relying upon him for runs and solidity at the top of a batting order that has been troublesome for them recently. Now they know what they had been missing all this time.