Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 4th day December 29, 2013

Rogers' Australia's feelgood story

At 35, Simon Katich was pensioned off after an Ashes series. At 35, Chris Rogers was recalled for one. He is making the most of his unexpected second chance.

"The Man of the Match is ... Mitchell Johnson."

So said Mark Nicholas on Channel Nine's post-match presentation on the MCG outfield. Mitchell Johnson, again. Not Chris Rogers. More than a few onlookers at the ground turned to their neighbours with querying looks. It was not that Johnson was an unworthy winner - he took eight wickets including the match-turner, Alastair Cook lbw for a fluent 51 in the second innings. But Rogers is the feelgood story; many of the fans wanted him recognised.

Nearly 40,000 of them had treated Rogers to a standing ovation when he drove through cover to bring up his century. He raised his bat, soaked up the adulation. This was a man who last year was nearly axed from Victoria's contract list, not because of his performances but because at nearly 35 he was not considered a likely Australian player. The focus of some state teams has shifted from winning competitions to producing international cricketers.

And really, who'd have thought in the 2012 winter that Rogers would ever play international cricket again? A year earlier, Simon Katich had been moved on by the national selectors as they looked to younger batsmen. Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey were still around. Even Rogers himself was starting to think of a coaching career. But Hussey and Ponting retired, and a senior batsman was desirable for this year's Ashes tour. Rogers fell into favour and into the team.

In England this year, Rogers often pulled out as the bowler was running in, distracted by the merest hint of movement in the region of the sightscreen. The running joke was that he was used to playing in empty stadiums, not before Ashes crowds. Fifteen years as a state and county pro conditions you to certain things. Slowly, Rogers is becoming more accustomed to being the centre of attention. He was the highest scorer in a Boxing Day Test that brought 271,865 spectators across the four days.

His 116 was his 64th first-class century - Michael Clarke and Shane Watson combined haven't made that many. Rogers delivered Australia into a position from which they could not lose this Test. The target of 231 was potentially tricky; Rogers made sure 200 of them were scored before he fell. Notably, he batted with intent and did not become bogged down like Michael Carberry did for England on day three, or like Rogers himself has in some innings.

Rogers' late cutting was deft and deliberate, helped by Alastair Cook's reluctance to post a third man. His short-arm jabs through the leg side were productive. He raced through the 90s in 12 deliveries; in Chester-le-Street this year he spent a nervous 19 balls on 96 before reaching his maiden Test century. The coach Darren Lehmann said after the Melbourne Test it was the best Rogers had batted since the Old Trafford Test - before his Chester-le-Street ton. In Manchester, like Melbourne, Rogers was positive.

His hundred came from 135 balls and even included an upper cut over the cordon for four. "Yeah yeah yeah!" Rogers called whenever he pushed balls through midwicket or cover, which was often. Modern bats and modern batsmen can make mis-hits fly away for boundaries; Rogers' bat sounds as clunky as Dennis Lillee's aluminium version. His 116 featured ten threes; only five were scored by the rest of Australia's batsmen combined throughout the Test.

The cover-drive that Rogers struck on 98 reached the boundary and even he seemed surprised, for he ran the first two hard to make sure of the hundred. There was excitement and relief, for Rogers had been dropped on 19 when he edged Stuart Broad between the keeper and first slip. He also had a scare on 81 when the ball lodged between his leg and the flap of his pad, and in turning around he flicked it near his stumps. It would have been a dead ball, but was a nervy moment nonetheless.

Rogers has found some odd ways to get out already since returning to the Test team, notably his lbw off a rank Graeme Swann full toss at Lord's. But Rogers will end 2013 as the only Australian batsman besides Michael Clarke (and the retired Hussey) with a Test average of 40-plus for the year. He seemed destined to be a one-Test wonder when he played against India in 2008. Since his recall, Rogers has made 700 runs at 41.17 with two hundreds and five fifties.

He is lucky. At 35, Katich was pensioned off after Australia's home Ashes debacle, which was far from his fault. At 35, Rogers was recalled for an Ashes tour at a time when Katich was still piling up county runs. One awkward-looking veteran opener eventually replaced another. Rogers is the proof that Katich was unlucky, that age no longer seems to matter.

But fate has landed Rogers here and will soon send him to South Africa. Beyond that, who knows? The next Ashes is only 18 months away and Rogers could be there. Stranger things have happened. He may even pick up a Man of the Match award along the way.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • $$ milind on December 30, 2013, 7:13 GMT

    Its amazing to see a color-blind man performing at red ball cricket. Easily one of the best returns to cricket. He was very positive from the start. Rogers has to be with the Australians till they see likes of Silk, Paine, Lynn, Maddinson, etc mature enough to play on the highest level. He's around 36... u never know might just pull off 3 years of cricket more.

  • Rajesh on December 30, 2013, 3:23 GMT

    I always thought he should have been given a second chance after the test against India in 2008, where he was out once and not out once (given our erroneously by umpire). But dedication, hope, hard work gave him a second chance and I was glad when he was selected for the England tour earlier this year. Good to see him succeed. People who spend a lot of years paying domestic cricket to earn a national cap must be given a long run. England dumped Nick Compton unceremoniously. But it was nice to see Carberry scoring runs as well. Then there is Geroge Baily. All these guys must succeed for sake of cricket.

  • Valerio on December 30, 2013, 3:08 GMT

    It was a wonderful performance by Chris Rogers, no doubt about that. A tremendous story. But for my money Mitchell Johnson was clearly the MOM. By a long way. His 2 lates strikes on Day 1 when England had batted with a lot of dedication were crucial. He then destroyed England early on Day 2. Day 3 he was always a menace, always threatening, taking wickets from both ends, making run-outs and taking catches. He put Australia in the position to win, and Rogers was crucial to securing the victory.

  • Dummy4 on December 30, 2013, 2:19 GMT

    It is just fantastic to sit back and see Rodgers perform after the pundits questioned his selection. Go Chris GO.Age is just a number

  • Benjamin on December 30, 2013, 0:38 GMT

    nzcricket174 on (December 29, 2013, 9:11 GMT) I agree with you - I called for this a opening pair a few years back but alas CA don't listen to me ;)

    Imagine the super Kat and Buck Rogers opening, geeze we would have ground teams in to submission through sheer board-em, it would have been epic and allowed the rest of the team to plunder tired attacks.

    That aside though I love watching bucky bat, he is a guy who works his butt off and gets the most out of his ability and is incredibly humble to boot. Too humble some times but all a part of his charm. I hope he can punch on for another year or two and really cash in. SAF will be a tough ask but if he can over come the swing anything is possible.

  • Steve on December 30, 2013, 0:38 GMT

    No disrespect to Chris Rogers, but when he scores a 100 (no less) being lucky even to last this whole series, one can only guess how pathetic Eng might have been. Nothing but weather can stop 5-0 series win for Aussies now. The only question is: can Eng last all of 5 days or not?

  • Don on December 29, 2013, 23:42 GMT

    Given the notorious difficulty with fourth innings run chases at the MCG, my view is that Rogers should have been MOM. A century under these circumstances is a really fine, match defining achievement. Don't forget his strong contribution of 61 in the Australian first innings.

    Having said that, Johnson was wonderful and I can understand the case for him being MOM.

    Finally, will Chris Rogers be worried about not being MOM....I doubt it. When being interviewed, he seems to be a terrific team oriented guy who really is living the dream. I reckon that he will be more than happy with a match defining ton in the Boxing Day Test at the mighty MCG.

  • Mick on December 29, 2013, 21:44 GMT

    Many teams would have stumbled chasing this modest total, not just Australian teams. Rogers was the match winner and therefore should have got the award. To do it so easily keeps the foot on the English throat and a white wash seems inevitable. If Aussies batting looked hesitant and fragile and they just won, the Sydney test may be a different story with a tiring bowling attack and an injured Watson.

  • Patrick on December 29, 2013, 20:56 GMT

    Unfair to say buck had 'chances', there was a chance through keeper & first slip, that's it. With Bairstow keeping Buck had a right to see this as a scoring area for him ;) The only hundred in a test where a couple of Aussie bowlers picked up a bag was worthy of MOM. Mitch knew it and spoke humbly of his achievements in lieu of Buck, nice team play Mitch.

  • ian on December 29, 2013, 20:51 GMT

    Unlike Boycott (who's wrong more times than he cares to admit) I rate Chris Rogers. I see him as a 'proper Aussie': traditional brand. Tough as old boots, with no concessions to modern fashion, a haircut that has never known the silver fingers of a preening stylist, body-art free, with an arm-guard that looks as if it came out of the dusty recess of a hospital storeroom, he would not have looked out of place in a team photograph of Australian teams in the 1950s, or even earlier. Besides, there is a small part of the Victorian that belongs to us in England - he is a veteran of the county circuit where his reputation for a nuggety opener has long be known and appreciated. The County Championship gave Rogers the opportunity to resume his Test career that appeared permanently stalled over five years ago. His performances in the northern summer have carried over into this glorious season for the Australian team & he has been there doing the heavy lifting like the trooper he is. Great Guy!

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