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April 9, 2010
Derbyshire 306 for 5 v Surrey
For all the big-name players you can import it won't matter a jot if catches are dropped and Surrey's new era under Rory Hamilton-Brown didn't all go to plan as Chris Rogers, given a life on 46, dominated the opening day at The Oval with an unbeaten 178. A couple of days before the Championship began, Chris Adams said he'd have a better idea about his new-look team after this game, but what he will already have learned is that his bowling attack is in for some hard toil on home soil.
Acquiring quality overseas players who are available for a whole summer is becoming increasingly difficult. However, in Rogers, Derbyshire have someone in the old mould who has formed a second home with his English club. Yet, unless the regulations are changed again, this will be his last season as he won't qualify for a visa come 2011.
The ECB are completely right to try and block the influx of random players from abroad, but precluding the likes of Rogers from doing a sterling job for a small club shows the chink in the system. All Derbyshire can do, for now, is make the most of him while he's around. For them to mount a promotion push (if that matters come September) he'll need to score 1500-plus runs. That's well within his range.
He ended last season with 222 against Essex and, although his Sheffield Shield season was a slightly disappointing 641 runs at 49.30 as he missed the final with a broken thumb, he has slotted straight back into top gear. He had to withstand a testing start against the new ball as Andre Nel and Jade Dernbach proved a handful, but was soon notching up the boundaries as he dominated the scoring. He should have gone shortly before lunch, but Stuart Meaker shelled a regulation catch at backward point off Nel - never the best man to deny a wicket to.
After the break Rogers raced into the 80s with three consecutive fours off Dernbach - the best being a pristine on drive - and brought up the first Championship hundred of the season from 174 balls. The fact that he is unlikely to add to the one Test cap he earned for Australia against India just goes to highlight the riches of their resources.
Play was preceded by a minutes silence for Alec Bedser as both teams and a large number of Surrey staff stood on the outfield looking at the stand that carries his name. He was part of the greatest Surrey side ever in the 1950s, but the team of the last few years has probably been one of the worst to wear the brown cap. This is the second year of Adams' rebuilding process, but 2009 was basically to remove the dead wood. Now the work really starts.
They could have had a wicket in the first over when the two openers argued over a sharp single to cover. Tim Linley had two ends to aim at, opted for Wayne Madsen at the non-striker's but missed. However Linley, a tall seam bowler, soon made an impression when he struck with his fourth ball to have Madsen caught at first slip. Hamilton-Brown's first bowling change had worked a treat.
No further wickets fell before lunch and Surrey, despite bowling well, didn't help themselves when Nel spilled Paul Borrington on 7 at third slip. Unlike Rogers with his later reprieve, Borrington couldn't cash in when he gloved a catch off Gareth Batty who found encouraging bounce. A change of ends brought Batty his second wicket when Garry Park fell sweeping at the offspinner who has joined from Worcestershire.
Greg Smith offered Rogers the support he needed, albeit with a few strokes of fortune as he twice inside-edged past his stumps against the pace bowlers. After Rogers moved to his hundred, Smith started to increase his tempo and Surrey were looking short of options when Hamilton-Brown threw the ball to Usman Afzaal.
As so often happens a lesser bowler caused a break in concentration and Smith played an awful shot to be caught at mid off, then Dan Redfern followed two overs later when he drove loosely to cover.
Nel returned for another spell with the new ball but somehow remained wicketless despite continually beating the outside edge of Rogers, even though he was well beyond 150, and giving his former South Africa team-mate Robin Peterson a working over. On another day he'd have had four wickets. But it's a long season ahead.
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