Middlesex prepared for Rogers' departure
Angus Fraser could have been forgiven the sort of intemperate outburst usually reserved by fast bowlers for fielders who drop catches but Middlesex's director of cricket, and a man who knows what it is like to contest an Ashes series, was not going to spoil Chris Rogers' day. Fraser described himself as "chuffed to bits" after Rogers was included in Australia's Ashes squad and said plans were in place for the county to sign a replacement overseas player.
Rogers is Middlesex's Championship captain and opener, as well as their most prolific run-scorer for the past two seasons, but his involvement in the Ashes means he will be unavailable for at least four games - against Warwickshire, Sussex, Durham and Derbyshire - between July 10 and August 25. Middlesex have won both their opening fixtures to make them the subject of early title chatter and Fraser was confident they can cope without Rogers during a crucial period of the season.
"We were prepared for it," Fraser said. "I know Chris said he thought his international days had been over but we had given it some thought and realised over the winter, watching Australia's results, that he could well come into contention. So we have been speaking to other people and had other things in place and we're now following those up so hopefully we'll be able to cater for Chris being away.
"The Ashes is quite short and sharp so, looking at the County Championship, Chris would probably only miss four games, which means he would then come back for our last four fixtures, hopefully. We've got contingency plans in place but we're delighted for him. Some Middlesex members might feel 'We've lost our captain, someone who's been integral over the last two years' but we want everyone at the club to achieve what they want to achieve on a cricket field. We're chuffed to bits for Chris and want to see him do well."
Rogers has played one previous Test for Australia, against India in 2008, but his form in England, where he has scored more than 9,000 runs for four counties, prompted Australia to turn to the 35-year-old again; two weeks ago, he made a half-century in each innings as Middlesex won at Trent Bridge, venue for the first Ashes Test. Should he be involved for the whole series, he could conceivably return for Middlesex's Championship fixture against Somerset, which begins three days after the conclusion of the fifth Test at The Oval.
While Middlesex would not be drawn on who his replacement would be. Adam Voges, who was also an outside bet for Ashes inclusion, has been signed for the FLt20 and extending that deal is a possibility. Voges bats in the middle-order, as does Eoin Morgan, who will return from the IPL towards the end of May, but Joe Denly is capable of opening, while Paul Stirling, Adam Rossington and Adam London provide options from within the second XI.
"We've obviously had a very good start to the season and Chris has played an important role in that," Fraser said. "We've got another six games before he departs, I believe, and that takes us to halfway through the season. We want to do well in those six games and the person that comes in to replace Chris while he's away, we'll hope he can fill the void. You can lose players through injury - we've got a squad and expect some of our younger players to come in and perform, should any openings appear. We're hopeful that we're not going to be short of a class batsman for any part of the season."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo