Rogers' calm is what Australia need
Middlesex 320 for 3 (Rogers 161*, Dexter 62*, Robson 54) v Sussex
There cannot be much more to say about Chris Rogers. Rarely will you see a player so in-tune with his own game. He is not the type of player to bring you out of your seat, but more one that fluffs the cushions, covers you in a blanket and assures you that everything is going to be okay, before he goes about his business. On this occasion that meant batting for the entire day and returning with 161 unbeaten runs. It is the kind of calming assurance Australia desperately need.
There was a green tinge out in the middle during the morning and it was enough to convince Ed Joyce to bowl first, as he put faith in the pitch but more so in his opening bowlers who already have 72 wickets between them. Almost immediately it looked like paying dividends, as Chris Jordan and Steve Magoffin gave Rogers and Sam Robson nothing.
Three balls into the seventh over, Magoffin tempted Rogers - with just three runs to his name - to come forward and drive at a ball that wasn't quite there. An edge was skewed to Michael Yardy at second slip, but was put down.
It was the second of three lucky breaks for Rogers - also dropped on 105 by Jordan at first slip off the bowling of Will Beer - but, he ensured the most was made of every one of them. The first occurred before a ball was even bowled, as he walked out to the middle with every intention to bat. Upon losing the toss, he could not help but crack a wry smile when his opposite number invited him to do so anyway.
He and Robson negotiated the first 45 minutes well before settling in and making their patience count with runs. As usual, Robson was the aggressor in the partnership, as Rogers took his time to adjust to the pace of the pitch. By lunch, the pair had put on 100, with Robson bringing up his half-century before being dismissed on the stroke of the interval. It was enough to see him pass 700 first-class runs for the season - something Rogers also achieved when he moved to 148. Without a doubt, they are the best openers in the country, both in terms of runs and on-field collaboration.
One noticeable element about Rogers' batting is that it lacks any pretention. Runs are collected behind square on both sides of the wicket - predominantly between gully and point, which brings gasps from the opposition cordon and a telling look from the bowler. He is a frustrator of bowlers, duping them with all the savviness of an ageing counter-puncher. It's certainly something England and their impetuous fast bowlers need to be aware of when he plays for Australia later this summer.
Even Magoffin, who watched Rogers pile on the runs when the pair shared a dressing room at Western Australia, ended the day as one of the duped. Coming over the wicket with the new ball only five overs old, Magoffin shaped three deliveries away - two full and one back of a length - before moving two back in, which Rogers was able to leave on line and then length. Desperate to make him play, the next ball was much straighter and the fullest of the lot. As such, it was picked off immaculately through midwicket for four - Rogers seemingly in position for the shot before Magoffin had even started his approach.
In the evening session, Neil Dexter ably supported his captain with some nicely timed shots through cover as he brought up his fourth half-century of the season, as Sussex looked increasingly frustrated turned down appeals and a flat pitch.
The one crumb of comfort for Sussex was Beer, drafted in to replace Monty Panesar who fell victim to a shoulder complaint he has been dealing with for most of the season. The young leg spinner, in his sixth Championship game, rarely forced the ball down, bowling at a good pace to impart some nice drift. It was his quicker ball that trapped Robson on the crease for his first wicket of the match, before a nicely flighted googly went up the hill and through the bat and pad of Joe Denly to bowl him.
But ultimately, with more than 300 on the board and only three wickets taken (not to mention the use of seven bowlers), the Championship leaders are already under the cosh.