The Ashes 2013-14 December 1, 2013

Rogers, Watson seek substance

In an opening Australian victory notable for its loud and brutish nature, Chris Rogers and Shane Watson were conspicuous by their muteness. Senior members of the Test team and critical components of the batting order, both men struggled for effect at the Gabba, and are seeking more substantial showings in Adelaide.

Brisbane's bounce was a significant factor in their struggles, startling Rogers on the first morning while also contributing to each of Watson's dismissals, a fend in the first innings and a skied pull in the second. No one knows exactly what to expect from Adelaide Oval's drop-in pitch, but it is fair to surmise that Rogers and Watson will join England's batsmen in not complaining should the ball arrive at hip rather than armpit height as they chase a better batting rhythm.

Before flying west, Rogers visited his Victoria teammates during their Sheffield Shield engagement with South Australia at the MCG. He also ventured to the visitors' dressing room for a chat about how Adelaide's pitches had played in the first two matches since their unveiling, and was happy enough with what he heard.

"I spoke to a few of the South Australian guys, it will be a typical drop-in wicket I think, not dissimilar to the MCG but a bit more flat and that will mean the bowlers will have their work cut out," Rogers said. "It would be nice to see a few runs in this game but also a bit of bounce for our fast bowlers."

Since returning home from England and a northern summer in which he found himself playing for the national side in addition to his county obligations for Middlesex, Rogers has struggled to feel entirely comfortable at the crease. A noted technical theorist, he has worked assiduously between Tests on his balance, and also on ensuring he plays in the straight lines that have served him well over a prolific career.

Another clue to his approach in Adelaide could be found in the first-innings exits of Aaron Finch and Rob Quiney in the aforementioned Shield game. Each perished essaying a cross-bat stroke early on the MCG drop-in, mistakes that helped the Redbacks rush the Bushrangers out for 118 on the first day. Do not expect too many such strokes from Rogers in Adelaide until the Kookaburra's seam has softened.

"I have probably hit the ball a bit better but I was able to do some good work this week and iron out some flaws," Rogers said. "I didn't contribute in the first game as much as I would like to be so it would be nice to get some in this game. I want to be playing the whole series and scoring runs, that's my job, so I probably can't afford too many failures."

Watson's low scores in Brisbane, meanwhile, can be partly attributed to the fact that the opening Test was the first red-ball fixture he had played since the final match of the previous series against England at The Oval in August. In between, Watson fulfilled Twenty20 and ODI duty for Australia while also turning out for Rajasthan Royals in the Champions League.

A hamstring injury cast doubt over his ability to bowl at the Gabba and also prevented him from taking part in the one Shield match available to him between the end of the India ODI tour and the first ball of the Test series. While Watson's bowling is an important element of Australia's combination, it is of far less import than his ability to punch England's fast bowlers through the field and loft Graeme Swann over it.

After David Warner and Michael Clarke showed the value of controlled aggression in Brisbane, Watson wishes to do likewise in Adelaide. Should he and Rogers find their games in time for Thursday, the climb ahead of England will become a decidedly steep one.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments