Rogers uncertain over Victoria future
Middlesex 364 for 3 (Rogers 173, Denly 116*) lead Somerset 173 by 191 runs
The Chris Rogers who clattered Somerset to all parts of Lord's, in an innings that means Middlesex can still win despite losing almost half the match thus far to rain, is the same man who is wracked with doubt about Victoria offering him another state contract in Australia.
In St John's Wood, Rogers has enhanced his reputation as a batsman and a team man, helping to guide Middlesex to promotion and now, as stand-in captain, having them in contention for the County Championship title. An avowed fan of the county system, Rogers has several years left at Middlesex should he want them. Yet at home there is growing doubt about whether, aged 34, he will fit into the Bushrangers' first-class plans for 2012-13, even though his capacity for hard-earned runs at the top of the batting order is undiminished.
To drift out of the game in Australia would be a poor conclusion to a career that has now reaped 54 first-class centuries in addition to his sole Test match appearance, against India at the WACA Ground in 2008, but Rogers can only express cautious optimism that the strides he is making for Middlesex will be noticed by Cricket Victoria, which like every state is growing impatient over the shape of the new contract structure to be outlined when Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association finally agree to an MoU.
"It's all a bit up in the air, with the stuff that's going on back home there a few of us who are a little bit in limbo and out of contract," Rogers said. "So I know there's a big push for the youth and the old guys are kind of being pushed through the back door. I still think I can give something to Victoria, whether they want me or whether I want to play.
"But I must admit I do love it over here, I do love the county system and the emphasis it still has on the longer version - maybe my future's over here. I understand there's a lot of pressure at home, Victoria already have quite a few experienced guys, so you've got to have that balance and bring the young players through. But I still think what I contribute is worthwhile and I'm very involved in the development of younger batsmen and I enjoy that. It'd be nice to think I'm still valued."
The irony of Rogers being pushed out for his supposed one-dimensional nature as a batsman is that the 173 at Lord's demonstrated how much punch he does possess. When Middlesex might have been cautious early in response to 173, he skated along to 50 from 62 balls to assuage any unease about the conditions in which Somerset had been routed, and later he attacked the visitors' bowlers with an intensity and effectiveness to match any of his more cavalier counterparts, blazing from 100 to 150 in 28 balls.
"I know there are limitations to my game, I don't hit the ball as far as most of the guys, but I think if you can use your brain and manipulate the ball then there's still a role to be had," Rogers said. "I played some good one-day innings and a couple of Twenty20 innings, so I think the ability's there. In hindsight, probably when I was growing up I'd have liked to train myself a little more for the shorter forms, but my goal was always to play Test cricket so that's why I set myself to play the longer version.
"I said when we had them nine down I thought it was important we were positive on that wicket. How I've seen it over the last few games it is just better to be positive than sit there and be defensive. So I took it upon myself to go out there and show the boys. I had a fair bit of luck but we got through that tough period where [Alfonso] Thomas was bowling well early and then we could hurt them later on. With wickets in hand that's where you like to be, and it was just an amazing day really."
Before the rain on Thursday, Middlesex moved on from 321 for 2 to 364 for 3 in 17.5 sedate overs. Joe Denly remained unbeaten on 116, having lost Dawid Malan to Craig Overton after the No. 4 had made an enterprising 51. Overton has been Somerset's most parsimonious bowler and deserved his wicket. Eoin Morgan had made only 2 when the showers encircled the ground, consigning both sides to an afternoon of marking time.
Rogers remained hopeful of forcing a result on the final day, when both rain and sunshine are forecast for London. "We couldn't have had a better day yesterday but we've got to keep our feet on the ground because there's still a lot of work to be done," he said. "The rain's hurt us badly today, but we're playing good cricket and yesterday was one of those days you only experience a handful of times in your career. We're doing well and that's really all you can ask.
"We're all quite aware of the weather over here and it was a distinct possibility that this was going to happen, so yesterday was a crucial day and tomorrow hopefully we can play all day. With all this rain perhaps the wicket will get juiced up and provide something for the seamers."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here