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Rogers lifts Middlesex from the brink

Somerset 523 for 9 dec (Hildreth 182, Trego 91, Kieswetter 69, Overton 63, Abell 50) drew with Middlesex 223 (Morgan 82, Roland-Jones 77) and 328 for 4 dec (Rogers 203*, Denly 60)
Scorecard

If Middlesex do avoid relegation - and they really should now - they will owe it largely to Chris Rogers.

It was Rogers who contributed a double-century at Lord's in April to help his side chase down 472 to beat Yorkshire. It was Rogers who hit a century in the win over Northamptonshire. And it was Rogers who batted for seven-and-a-half hours here to register a second double-century this season and salvage his side a draw that all but ensures Middlesex of safety this season.

We should probably no longer be surprised when Rogers plays innings like this. A career that started at the WACA in 1998 - he made his debut in a tour match for Western Australia against England - has now brought 70 first-class centuries (the same amount as Shivnarine Chanderpaul) and 11 double-centuries. This innings also took his career average above 50. Only Murray Goodwin, with 71, has more centuries of those still playing and he has announced his retirement.

Most impressively, Rogers seems to deliver most, for Middlesex at least, when his side require it most. Here, had he failed, Middlesex's unpredictable middle-order would have been exposed and they faced going into the last match of the season with a fragile lead over Lancashire. As it is, they have a cushion of 19 points. They are all but safe.

Rogers is not an especially attractive player. He does not empty bars or thrill spectators. Balls are, generally, steered or pushed or nudged or punished. They are rarely ramped or thrashed.

But, aged 37 and with a career's worth of experience behind him, he knows his limitations, he revels in the contest and he has a concentration span that could out stare the moon. His main skill - survival and occupation of the crease - remains an essential part of the longer-forms of the game and, as he explains it, he has made a virtue of his limitations.

"I'm not as fluent or as talented as other players in many respects," Rogers admitted. "So I have to rely on other things.

"Decision making is one of those things and probably intelligence is another. And just the willingness to fight: I probably play my best innings when up against it. I was coming off three bad scores here and was starting to feel the heat a little bit.

"This was an important result for us. The thing we have always prided ourselves on is being hard to beat, but we've almost lost that a little bit. If we hadn't got anything out of this game, we would have gone to Manchester with everything wide open. We couldn't afford a loss. This changes things a bit.

"We almost hit rock bottom on day two. There was a lot of criticism flying around and, as a captain, I was throwing some of it at the players. But to do that, you have to stand up yourself. So that's something I can be proud for us.

"It was great to be the guy who once again stands up for Middlesex. I'm very proud to play for this club. I love playing for Middlesex and it would be nice to play at least one more season for them."

With such skills, and such knowledge of English conditions, you would have thought him an almost certain selection in Australia's Ashes squad in 2015. But there is much cricket to be played before then and Rogers' age - he is 37 - may count against him.

Nor are Middlesex guaranteed to wait for him. "I know Middlesex are under pressure to look for a player," he said. "As those available are few and far between. It will be interesting to see what happens."

Rogers highlighted the loss of allrounder Gareth Berg - who has missed most of the season due to a career- threatening injury - as a key factor in Middlesex's struggles this season and also credited the first-innings partnership between Eoin Morgan and Toby Roland-Jones as the turning point of this match. "Without their stand, Somerset would have been fresh to attack us in the second innings," he said. "Things could have been very different."

Rogers was assisted by a pitch that, by the end, had lost whatever life and pace it ever had. With Somerset's bowlers obliged to remain in the field for more than 200 overs in succession, it was not surprising that the attack lost its string.

Perhaps, if Jack Leach were able to find a bit more pace on his spin, perhaps if Alfonso Thomas had made better use of the second new ball, perhaps if Peter Trego had enjoyed just a bit of luck - he beat the edge several times - things might have been different. In truth, though, this was a painfully slow wicket by the end and Rogers, in such circumstances, presents a significant challenge.

It was heartening, though, to see Craig Overton produce a small but wonderful spell in mid-afternoon that briefly threatened to bring the match to life. After winning a fortuitous leg before appeal against Joe Denly, who may well count himself unfortunate having justified his return to the team with just his third half-century of the season, he unleashed a fearsome bouncer that appeared to disconcert Morgan and, a few balls later, he left a straight one that hit his off stump.

It all means that Somerset will finish mid-table. While that represents a slight improvement on last season, it has also brought a sinking realisation that the club's best chance of winning that elusive maiden Championship title has probably gone for now. They had their best chance between 2009 and 2012.

Those were golden years for the club. While they did not win the trophies their performances warranted, they went close often, they entertained regularly and they produced a couple of players who may play big role in the future of the England side. Next season will see them start a new phase. They will certainly have a new director of cricket and quite possibly other changes in the club's hierarchy.

The old pavilion will also have gone. The likes of Sammy Woods, WG Grace, Don Bradman, Viv Richards and Ian Botham all emerged from the wooden building that has looked over this ground since 1882. And it offered the finest view of cricket in England, too.

But the new Somerset has, quite rightly, ambitions. It wants on-field success - something of a rarity through much of Somerset's history - and it wants to host international cricket. A rather charming ceremony after the close of play saw present and former players share their memories of the building and explain the need for the redevelopment. It was, perhaps, rather strange that there was no mention of the departing director of cricket, Dave Nosworthy.

The new man faces a tough challenge. He has some good young players, but he also has a level of expectation that will take time to satisfy.

Not everything will change, though. Marcus Trescothick insists he is "enjoying it all as much as I did when I was 21" and promises to be around "for another few years yet." He has become as recognisable as part of this club as the tower of St James' Church and the view of the Quantocks. And while some may suggest that, aged 38, his time is coming to an end, he remains, by a distance, his side's leading run-scorer in the Championship season.

Rogers, Trescothick and the old pavilion at Taunton... they don't build them like that anymore.

Middlesex 3rd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st14CJL RogersSD Robson
2nd126CJL RogersDJ Malan
3rd144CJL RogersJL Denly
4th2CJL RogersEJG Morgan
5th42CJL RogersNJ Dexter
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