A nation rose and fell with every ebb and flow of torment as Chris Rogers endured his first-innings ordeal. He survived 196 dot balls, numerous play and misses, a couple of hairline DRS adventures and a dropped catch on the way to his maiden Test century.
Australians of all persuasions were absorbed and drained by his fighting innings, an effort that was the reverse of the coin supplied by the joyous and unaffected Ashton Agar in the team’s first outing at Trent Bridge all those weeks ago.
Yet of all the tens of thousands of his compatriots who were compelled to follow every delivery, two Australians rode each ball as though it was the most significant thing in their lives.
To John and Ros Rogers, parents of Chris and cricket people to the bone, their son’s Test elevation at the age of 35 was as much a relief as it was a delight.
And they were as drained as anyone watching when he finally reached that most elusive of centuries.
“We had sat frozen for over six hours despite thermal singlet, shirt, jacket and a state of nerves,” John Rogers said, “so dynamic was Broad’s bowling and the threat of Swann.
“Chris reaching 50 was as anti-climactic as I’ve seen – a single from a dropped catch.
“Through the 60s it was a single every second over, then gradually he made 80, then stopped a bit on 92 and then 96.
“He generally accelerates through the 90s, but this time Swann and Cook fenced him in. Then Watson got out and he knew another wicket must not fall.
“A complete ring field hemmed him in and he tried every way he could to hit the ball through.
“Suddenly I saw a desperate sweep and thought ‘oh, no’. It was so dark I didn’t know what happened and I immediately thought he was out lbw.
“Then I saw them looking square and there’s the ball, careering to the fence.
“The crowd roared. I’m gutted, drained – I even shed a little tear. I couldn’t even stand up like everyone else. I gave Ros a hug when she sat down. We were totally spent from riding every near-miss and all the appeals.
“I’d wanted him to play as he had at Old Trafford, but the two innings were like chalk and cheese.
“Yet the scoreboard kept ticking over. Several edged and glanced fours helped, but there was a lovely straight drive early on and all those tucks off the hips add up.
“In the next over after the hundred, I saw him leaning on his bat looking at the ground. The realisation was dawning and he said he had a little tear too.”
The couple had been aware of Chris’s remarkable talent at the age of 12, but saw him suffer as much disappointment over the years as success at state and county level. The dream of Test success was theirs as much as the player’s, but years of lost opportunities sapped their hopes.
Rogers Snr has been involved in cricket all of his life. He, more than most, appreciated the enormity of his son’s feat.
An occasional player for New South Wales, he made 65 in the first of his three Sheffield Shield matches and has the quirk of a one-day strike rate of 125 from one match, that maintains him at the very top of domestic career statistics.
He was also the general manager of the Western Australian Cricket Association for seven years, a post that brought his family to Perth.
Administrative and coaching posts followed at the University of WA cricket club where Chris became a prolific runscorer, Ian Bell went to learn his trade and Agar currently calls home.
The Rogers are retired now and used their son’s Ashes selection to provide the framework for a trip around Britain.
They have bought a caravan and plan to do the same in Australia this winter. They were not sure if Chris would be in the same cities as the Ashes Tests, but that fear has now been allayed, his immediate future guaranteed. The Rogers family will be staying together, for now.
John Townsend is Cricket Writer at the ‘West Australian’
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