Rogers flies as flu strikes Derby
Derbyshire 368 for 3 (Rogers 204*, Hinds 19*) v Essex
Derbyshire will be crossing their fingers they have a team capable of building on a dominant opening day of their promotion clash. Illness is spreading through the squad, confirmed as swine flu in one player, with the bowling department being worst hit. At least those who remain healthy will have plenty of runs to play with after Chris Rogers, himself understood not to be feeling 100%, hit an unbeaten 204 as the home side reached 368 for 3.
Rogers will struggle to add to his single Test cap despite Phillip Hughes' problems during the Ashes series. However, he can do no more than pile up the runs in domestic cricket and during this innings he passed 2000 for all competitions this season. And if he was feeling any effects from illness, he certainly didn't show it as he was striking the ball as cleanly at six o'clock as he was when play began.
He felt no need to change his game as stumps approached, instead belting two dismissive, on-the-up, cover drives to take him into the 190s. Then he slog-swept Danish Kaneria for six before working a single into the off side to reach a dominant double hundred from 290 balls. It gave Rogers a run of two doubles and two other centuries in seven innings.
Unlike Rogers' uncomplicated approach to batting, however, the maths behind who might join Kent in the promotion stakes is much more taxing. The easiest situation to understand when play began was that Essex held the aces. A 19-point win would guarantee them promotion, but that is now looking a long shot at best. Northamptonshire, currently taking on Leicestershire, are the side to have gained most from today in terms of their promotion chances.
Tim Groenewald was ruled out before the game after being diagnosed with swine flu and spending Saturday night in hospital. Tom Lungely, the seamer, was then sent home this morning as a precaution after showing symptoms while four others - Jamie Pipe, Graham Wagg, Greg Smith and Rogers himself - were also struggling. At least the dressing room appeared in good humour as they displayed a poster of a pig and a message to Groenewald on the window.
With the home side needing a result they gambled and left plenty of grass on the surface. Essex then won the toss, but couldn't take advantage as they bowled too short during the opening session, allowing Derbyshire to reach lunch at 110 for 1. The lone breakthrough went to Chris Wright when he trapped Wayne Madsen leg before with one that would probably have clipped leg stump.
Derbyshire, though, were able to score at a healthy rate, important for their cause of racking up bonus points as quickly as possible, while the Essex attack continued to forget the basics of how to exploit helpful conditions. The scoreline doesn't suggest it, but the ball moved all day long. Rogers cut and drove strongly against anything marginally off line - of which there was plenty - and reminded everyone that there is no shortage of batting talent in Australia as he reached his hundred from 154 deliveries.
Moments before his century Rogers had lost Garry Park following a second-wicket stand of 121. Park's eighth half-century of the season came from 82 balls, but his problem has been converting into three figures which he has only managed once. And again he couldn't capitalise on a solid base when he pushed at a delivery from Wright that moved away and edged a comfortable catch to first slip.
Daniel Redfern, a 19-year-old left-hander of immense promise, began with a brace of elegant cover drives and also showed some impressive footwork when he kicked away a ball that was threatening to fall perilously close to the stumps. Rogers, too, had a nervous moment, on 134, as the ball rolled into leg stump without dislodging a ball - but it was the closest Essex came to removing him. The visitors were hampered by a struggling Kaneria, who would normally at least offer control, as he was suffering problems with his Achilles.
The third-wicket pair had added 130 when Redfern fell to the new ball, driving loosely and sending a catch to gully to give Wright his third wicket, as the ball was belatedly pitched up on the right line. But there was no further success for a weary attack as Rogers and Wavell Hinds batted out the final session. However, while runs are on the board it remains to be seen how Derbyshire's bowling attack pulls up and, still, events elsewhere could have the final say.
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo