England v Australia, 4th Investec Ashes Test, Durham, 2nd day August 10, 2013

Rogers' maiden ton does job for Australia

Australia 222 for 5 (Rogers 101*, Watson 68, Broad 4-48) trail England 238 by 16 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Ugly was beautiful for Chris Rogers and Australia. On the most difficult day to bat in the Investec Ashes series so far, with Stuart Broad breathing fire in the sorts of spells he can occasionally conjure, Rogers scrapped, scraped, nudged and edged his way to a century few who witnessed it will forget.

From a position early in the day where it looked as though a team total of around 100 was not out of the question, the tourists reached the close only 16 runs shy of England's total with five wickets in hand. For that they had to thank Rogers and his erstwhile opening partner, Shane Watson.

So long spurned as a Test batting option, Rogers has had to wait until the shadows of his 36th birthday for a genuine chance, and by playing so confidently in Manchester and now so doggedly in Durham he has taken it grandly. Only one Australian, Arthur Richardson, has been older at the time of his maiden century. Rogers himself seemed to age another few years as he spent 19 nervous balls on 96, but he summoned a sweep to go to 100. A few moments later the umpires ended play for bad light, leaving Australia to dream of building a significant advantage on Sunday.

It was fitting too that the day's key stand was notched by Rogers and Watson, a pair who have found themselves ideally suited to bat together, even though the latter's starts in the series so far had flattered to deceive and pushed him down the batting order. Their union of 129 was by a distance the highest of the match, and neutralised much of the near unplayable stuff served up by Broad.

A Rogers reprieve in complicated circumstances also proved critical to proceedings. Australia were 34 for 2 when he was given out caught behind by Tony Hill. On Rogers' referral the ball was found to be missing the bat but clipping the top of the stumps on Hawk Eye's projection. England's players assumed Rogers would remain out, but had to be reminded of the regulations of the DRS by the umpires. As Rogers had not been given out lbw on the field, Hawk Eye needed to show three reds for the lbw decision.

Jackson Bird had plucked James Anderson's middle stump to end England's innings without addition to their overnight total. When England took to the field, it was immediately apparent that the ball would continue to deviate. Anderson bent the ball back towards Rogers' pads with some menace, but it was Broad who found the right combination of swing, seam and bounce to confound the top order. Returned to open, David Warner's lack of certainty about the location of his off stump was exposed by late movement, and he was bowled offering a shot so late it was almost retrospective.

Similarly, Usman Khawaja was unsure whether to play or leave, and was too late in withdrawing his bat from harm as a Broad delivery whizzed across him. It touched the toe of the bat, and Matt Prior held a catch more difficult than it appeared down low to his right.

Michael Clarke and Rogers then showed a greater intent to score, though Broad continued to pose problems, even if he burned one decision referral with an lbw appeal against Rogers that pitched clearly outside leg stump.

It was with another ball moving back towards Rogers that the morning's most fevered moment arrived. The ball brushed the back pad on its way through to Prior, and England went up in appeal for a catch at the wicket. Hill raised his finger, and Rogers referred, shaking his head as he did so. It proved a successful referral.

Clarke threw his hands unwisely at a ball moving away and bouncing, edging a sharp chance to Cook, who held it neatly above his head. If the shot was poor, it was still a just reward for Broad, who was then withdrawn from the attack after seven red-blooded overs that had reaped 3 for 23. Steve Smith fought gamely to the interval, but was defeated soon after it, prodding forward to Tim Bresnan and snicking behind.

At 76 for 4, Watson walked to the middle in the role he had been given on his debut as far back as 2005. He has shuffled through plenty of commissions since, and after a poor start to this series might have been pondering whether this would be the last. He began solidly, keeping out the lbw seekers arrowed towards his pads by Bresnan, Anderson and Broad, while at the same time rotating the strike better than he has sometimes managed.

He and Rogers both had reprieves, Bresnan dropping a difficult return catch from Watson and Graeme Swann turfing a one-handed chance at second slip from Rogers. But they steadily wrested back some of England's earlier supremacy. Rogers was never wholly comfortable, living on his nerves and his top order technique, but doing enough to mount the tally.

The stand went deep into the evening session, Watson opening up slightly with a pair of drives redolent of his Twenty20 destructor mode and Rogers inching ever closer to a century. It was ultimately the encroachment of that milestone that seemed to disrupt the rhythm of the pair. Becalmed against Swann, Rogers was unable to break up the strike, and a persevering Broad eventually had Watson falling across to the offside, but glancing a catch down leg side to Prior rather than falling lbw.

Rogers' battle to reach three figures was as compelling as the innings itself. Having punched his 12th boundary through the covers, he then agonised over more than three scoreless overs against Swann. One fell inches short of Broad at mid-on, another spun narrowly past the outside edge, and a third was centimetres from off stump as Rogers went back to cut. Cook had brought the field up to starve the single, but left gaps for a boundary.

And so from his 20th ball on 96, Rogers went for the sweep, a stroke he seldom uses. It may have been a shot played as a last resort, but the timing was sweet, and the square leg rope was hit. Australia's team balcony erupted in adulation and relief, but Rogers was understatement itself, removing his helmet, raising his bat and sharing the moment with Brad Haddin. It was a classical way to meet a century, and also an acknowledgement that more remains to be done. Based on the resolve he showed on the second evening, Rogers is far from satisfied.

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