Chris Rogers a key this summer

Date: November 20, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

The attention of the crowd when Australia starts each innings this summer will be on David Warner – will he or won’t he come off with his derring-do against the Poms?

If he does, he will have Alastair Cook and his men on the back foot.

Yet, it many ways, the man at the other end may in fact be a bigger thorn in England’s side.

While he lacks the flair of the likes of Warner, what Chris Rogers brings to the top of the Australian order is a wealth of experience, a mountain of first-class runs and a steely, never say die attitude.

It is that very attitude that saw his Test career reignited during the last Ashes series, some 67 months after his previous, and to that point, one and only Test appearance.

He began the series alongside Shane Watson, who gave way to Warner for the fourth Test.

Rogers’ international reincarnation produced 367 runs at an average of 40.8 – the highlight being a maiden Test century at Chester-le-Street.

The pugnacious left-hander, who has celebrated his 36th birthday since that series ended, applied all the wherewithal and match knowledge he had gained from a first-class career that started in the 1998-99 season.

Rogers was aided no doubt by his long stints in County cricket, having turned out for Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Middlesex over the years.

He enters this Ashes series with a first-class average of 49.98 from 252 matches, having amassed 20,795 runs with 63 centuries.

One of the curses that has beset Australian cricket of late – it was evident again during the last Ashes series – is batting collapses.

Gone are the likes of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey who for so long were able to sure up an innings when wickets started to fall.

Twice during the last Ashes campaign Australia suffered dramatic collapses.

In the opening encounter at Trent Bridge it found itself 9-117 in its first innings yet remarkably lost the match by just 14 runs.

At Chester-le-Street, chasing 299 runs in the last innings, Australia was 0-109 before imploding to be all out for 224.

Both calamitous collapses effectively scuppered any prospect of reclaiming the little urn.

Rogers, by dint of technique and experience, can be the glue that holds the top order together this summer.

The likes of Warner and Watson will play their shots – they may succeed, they may not.

Either way, it is imperative that Rogers does the hard yards.

Throughout his first-class career he has displayed the ability to bat for long periods of time – his highest score is 319.

During the last series he always appeared comfortable against the quicks.

It was Graeme Swann who was his nemesis.

His off-spinners claimed Rogers’ wicket six times during the series – James Anderson picked him up twice and Stuart Broad the once.

There was little pattern to Swann’s dismissals of Rogers as he bowled him once, twice had him caught in the field, once caught behind and twice trapped him leg before – one of which will continue to show up on You Tube under the banner, ‘World’s Worst Dismissals’.

Reports are that Rogers has been working solidly on ways to counter Swann however he is likely to find that conditions alone this season will aid him.

England deliberately produced denuded and abrasive pitches during the recent series aimed at providing a dual prong benefit – the ability to produce reverse swing early in an innings and to allow Swann to dominate the series from a slow bowling perspective.

By series’ end Swann was the leading wicket-taker with 26 at 29.0.

He may not find things as easy this time around given the far more verdant pitches and outfields he will encounter.

For Rogers, it may be a blessing.

Having shown that he can handle the England pace attack with little trouble, should he conquer Swann as well, he could have a golden summer.

Hopefully, from an Australian point of view, he will occupy the crease for long periods without gifting his wicket.

If he can help reduce the possibility of top-order collapses he will go a long way to aiding his team’s goal of reclaiming the Ashes.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 19 November 2013