The Ashes 2013-14 December 1, 2013

Rogers, Watson seek substance

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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

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  • ScottStevo on December 3, 2013, 14:05 GMT

    @Chris_P, please explain how Rogers has history and form? He was OK in the UK and has failed in both innings here. Is he any better than Watson? Well, Watson outscored him on the last tour. Let me guess, out comes the useless FC stats again....I like Rogers and he should've played years ago, but I can't see him being selected after this series.

  • Chris_P on December 2, 2013, 22:49 GMT

    @Beertjie Agree with you Bailey is a short term option, at best. He hasn't the history to make a huge success at test level over a sustained period, but this ground should suit him so I really wish him the best. I know they'll pick Watson, he better put in a few overs to relieve the front liners & not just a couple of overs of military medium he showed in Brisbane. Rogers will be fine, he has the history, form & this ground suits him perfectly.

  • Camberwellcarrot1979 on December 2, 2013, 21:52 GMT

    chicko1983...mate you do realise that Australia have won as many Tests as Zimbabwe this year? That 2-7 scoreline not deflating you I see? Also, how many your batters average in the 30s? Do you know what a good cricketer looks like?

  • dummy4fb on December 2, 2013, 17:46 GMT

    If Rogers can rotate the strike when Warner is in the zone and farm it when he's having some trouble then thats all we need from him. We don't need an all guns ablazing opening partnership. Australia needs to maximise the potential of getting runs out of Warner, Clarke and maybe a solid half century from someone else.

  • Beertjie on December 2, 2013, 9:35 GMT

    Bailey simply won't make it either. By all means give him Adelaide (in order to be fair) but unless he scores big, someone else will be needed. Who? North would permit you to pick Faulkner as fourth seamer since he would also give you the off-spin variation. Before Lyon's fans crucify me, just note that Davison is not accompanying him to Perth. Seems like he'll be carrying the drinks there. If North does OK, he might see out the rest of the series, but he's clearly no solution. Phil Hughes needs to come back in at some time soon, given his experience. Hope he seizes his chance this time, but he would be better off batting #3. Musical chairs!

  • milepost on December 2, 2013, 8:26 GMT

    Broad bowled one good innings in Brisbane. Anderson has lost his mojo. So England have no 2nd or 3rd seamer and their spinner got carted in Brisbane. Need I mention the batsmen were rolled twice and failed again in Alice Springs. It's hard to see how England can win a game.

  • Shaggy076 on December 2, 2013, 5:38 GMT

    FFL- Pretty sure you will find his nemesis in ENgland was Bresnan. As soon as he went out of the team he knocked up a ton. There is no issues with Anderson who hasnt picked up a decent wicket haul since Lords which is now 4 tests ago. His averahe in Ashes tests is going back the way he started and will be over 40 soon.

  • chicko1983 on December 2, 2013, 5:00 GMT

    @ Front-Foot-Lunge - Watson was the second highest runs scorer of both teams during the English series and he was on the verge of being dropped! If he gets it right, watch out. How's Anderson's Ashes average going again? 36 odd and 38 in Australia...English supporters don't know how to judge a good cricketer.

  • cricket_tragic99 on December 2, 2013, 2:54 GMT

    Rogers did well to protect the middle order from the new ball. If he can bat 30 overs innings and only score 20-30 runs then I would call it a job well done.

  • Dave1970 on December 2, 2013, 2:44 GMT

    If Faulkner is picked over Bailey the balance of the side would be uneven. If Rogers keeps his opening spot then Watson's position would be the one to go for me. This then leaves who do you put at three?

    Warner, Rogers (Watson), Bailey, Clarke, Smith, Faulkner, Haddin, Johnson, Siddle, Harris and Lyon. Or leave the team as is.

    The Adelaide pitch is not made for dashers who like cross bat shots, so Warner and Watson will be a concern - having both in the side even more so - and could fall cheaply due to their aggressive nature.

    Time will tell - can;t wait.

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