Fitting, fortunate and deserved
Michael Hussey and Simon Katich were masters of scoring hundreds with barely a memorable stroke. A nudge here, a push there, a crisp drive, an efficient pull. Nothing too extravagant, nothing too risky. GPS-like knowledge of off stump's position. The willingness to leave balls outside it. Repeatedly. The patience to make bowlers come to them. Repeatedly. The hunger to do so day in, day out, year in, year out. Repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly.
Through future planning, Australia no longer have Katich. Through a breakdown of it, they no longer have Hussey. But they do have Chris Rogers, who works in the same understated way. Rusted on to first-class cricket since last century, Rogers has piled up hundreds for Victoria, Western Australia, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Middlesex. Sixty, in fact. All the while, he has made them by making bowlers come to him.
It was fitting that Rogers' maiden Test hundred was a trial of technique in seriously testing conditions, against high-class seam and swing bowling. Such situations have been Australia's downfall in recent years, from 88 against Pakistan in Leeds in 2010 to 47 to 98 against England on Boxing Day later that year, to 47 in Cape Town in 2011. This was why Rogers was recalled at 35. To add some guts to Australia's batting order. To provide some resolve.
When Rogers was asked if his 60 first-class centuries helped him as he approached his maiden Test hundred, he was unequivocal. "They don't count for a thing," he said. Perhaps that was true once Rogers reached the nineties. As Graeme Swann attacked the stumps, Rogers became possessed by paranoia. Every ball could make or break a dream he had nurtured through boyhood, maintained through manhood and abandoned in veteranhood.
An empty, echoing MCG, a tranquil county ground in Derby, nothing could prepare Rogers for the pressure of nearing an Ashes ton. But it was precisely such experiences that allowed him to reach the point at which paranoia could kick in. There are those who will say Rogers was lucky to get to his century. Of course he was. What batsman has ever made a hundred in trying conditions and not enjoyed a measure of good fortune? But Rogers allowed himself to still be there to be lucky.
His opening partner David Warner was bowled, late on a ball he appeared set to leave, unaware of his off stump's position. Usman Khawaja was also the victim of his own uncertainty, bottom-edging a ball he shaped to play and then tried to leave. Michael Clarke drove recklessly outside off and edged behind, Steven Smith also poked and tickled to Matt Prior. On a seaming pitch, they were balls Rogers would have left.
His approach seemed to rub off on Shane Watson, who started tentatively but worked his way into Test-match touch. When Watson leaves outside off, he does it with the reluctance of a new dieter leaving half a plate of food untouched. Rogers leaves it out of habit; he knows there will always be a better choice, a healthier option. Here, he waited for the balls on his pads, working runs behind square or through midwicket.
And there were enough bad balls that he was able to not get bogged down. He reached his half-century from 87 deliveries, a fine effort in such difficult conditions. This is a man who knows his scoring areas. At the crease, Rogers is still, efficient in his movements. Here, he played the ball late, not reaching, just deflecting, nudging, driving when the fast bowlers overpitched.
Often his leaves looked like plays and misses, for really he was just getting to off stump and dragging the bat inside the line of the ball. Of course, there were plenty of times, particularly in a searching spell from Stuart Broad, he was genuinely beaten outside off. But rarely was he beaten while chasing wide balls he could have left, and when he was he chastised himself greatly, as when he flung the bat at a wide tempter from James Anderson.
Unlike Warner, he covered his off stump scrupulously against the fast bowlers. It was that practice that saved him from one of his closest calls, when he was given out caught behind and asked for a review. The replays showed Rogers had not hit the ball but Broad's delivery might have hit the stumps had it not clipped the batsman's leg on the way through. It was, however, an "umpire's call" on the lbw, which saved Rogers as he had been given out not lbw but caught behind. Protecting his off stump had saved him.
There were moments of genuine good fortune, as when he was dropped at slip on 49, but even then his style of stroke kept the ball low. He was lucky, but he contributed to his own good fortune. By the close of play, Rogers had survived the nervous 96s and was a Test centurion.
The biggest Test hundreds are not always the finest, and his effort was the equal of any by an Australian since late 2011, when Clarke scored a magic 151 on the Cape Town surface on which Australia were later bowled out for 47, and David Warner's bat-carrying effort on a seamer in Hobart the following month.
They were the kind of innings that featured more regularly when Katich and Hussey were around. Australia may no longer have either of those men but they now have Rogers. And having waited so long, he is hungry. They can have him as long as they like.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here