Ashes 2013-14: Chris Rogers’ old-school resistance proves the art of the opener need not be dead

The Aussie Angle

Patience is an under-rated quality in the age of Twenty20, where strike rates are king and the only way to take the shine off the new ball is to bounce it off the fence.

Proper cricket, fans of the new-age game mutter with a slightly sneering overtone, has had its day. Players need to “take the game forward” and show “positive intent”. A dot ball is an opportunity lost; a maiden over a ratings calamity. Thank goodness Chris Rogers is an old-fashioned opener for whom television ratings and strike rates are as obsolete as Harlequin caps and sips of sherry during the drinks break.

Rogers’ greatest value to the Australian team has been in matches when the opposition new ball bowlers are on song and his middle order colleagues are vulnerable to seam and an attritional environment.

The left-hander’s greatest triumph came at Chester-le-Street last summer when he produced his maiden Test century on the toughest pitch of the series and steered his team into a position where they could win. That victory did not follow was hardly the fault of the opener.

Rogers did not reach his century here at the MCG yesterday but his 61, made in a tick under four hours of mostly arduous and watchful defence, may be as valuable as three figures on many other days.

Rogers is familiar with the MCG drop-in given that he moved to Victoria five years ago and has since scored more runs and centuries at the ground than any other batsman. But he considered it nothing like the pitches used in interstate cricket which have been truer and offering greater rewards to both batsmen and bowlers. The Test strip gave little to either camp.

“It was hard work and is actually not playing like the Sheffield Shield wickets this year,” Rogers said after his contribution to Australia’s 164 for 9. “It is two-paced but that just means you have to adjust and we didn’t adjust very well.”

Rogers was content to allow the bowlers to come to him. He faced 171 balls in an innings that included two breaks and an extended repair session while he recovered from a Stuart Broad bumper that hit him on the temple. But only 28 of those deliveries were scored from as Rogers invited bowlers to find the chink in his armour.

He went through three replacement helmets but said his head was too big for each of them while his front-on technique also meant his right shoulder repeatedly bumped against the grilles of each one.

“Stuart was bowling quite quickly and he is a tall guy so if you misjudge his length you only have fractions of a second to react,” Rogers said. “I misjudged it.”

His second error came three hours later when he attempted to loft Tim Bresnan back over his head only to skew a catch to mid-off. “It wouldn’t get much better than a Boxing Day Test hundred,” he said. “I got a start and didn’t go on with it which is the most disappointing thing.”

John Townsend is cricket writer for ‘The West Australian’

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