Rogers pinpoints England 'holes' ahead of Ashes
Who better to start this year's Ashes phoney war than Chris Rogers? The 2015 tour of England looms as his final Test assignment, and he may yet line up against his Antipodean pupil and Middlesex team-mate Sam Robson.
Rogers had barbs for both England and Robson when quizzed on prospects for the series, highlighting an unsettled top order as a point of weakness to be exploited. He also wondered mischievously why Robson's technique appeared to fall into disrepair despite being attended by countless numbers of England back room staff during his first taste of the international game in last year's series against Sri Lanka and India.
"There were definitely some good signs for England in the series against India, but I still think there are a few weaknesses that we saw against Sri Lanka," Rogers said ahead of his day as Prime Minister's XI captain against England's ODI tourists. "They might be improving but they are not near the highs they were a few years back and there are still a few guys under pressure in that side and making their way. There are a few holes for us and hopefully we can make the most of it.
"The opening bowlers are particularly good but after that no-one has really nailed their spot. I think there is a lot of talent there but they haven't performed as well as they could, and Sam is under a bit of pressure at the top. As is Alastair Cook too I think. The opening partnership is far from settled and that is going to be crucial if we bowl well and make inroads."
Rogers has observed Robson's first steps as a Test batsman with great interest, having found a late and unexpected avenue into cricket's most revered arena in the year before the younger man was chosen for England. While rich in his respect for Robson, he was not shy in offering an unvarnished critique of his early forays and batting chemistry with the recently harried Cook.
"He is so young and he's got plenty of time. He's got the desire too. I'm a big fan and always have been, but it is hard initially when you play Test cricket. There are very few players who go in and dominate straight away. He's still got a bit of work to do and he'll be honest about that, but he is the type of character who will improve and find ways to get better, and I'm sure he'll have a long career ahead of him.
"I actually think he came back [to Middlesex] with a different technique to when he went in to the side, a few things crept into his game he should have been helped with but he wasn't, and that was interesting. He is still developing his game and anyone who comes in - Adam Lyth or whoever - they're still going to find it hard initially as well. So, as I said, there's some chances for us to hurt England come the Ashes."
"He was good enough to go away and work and figure them out," Rogers added, on Robson's issues. "It's not all about him. I think Alastair is under a lot of pressure and he needs to be leading from the front, particularly when you've got a young opener with you. So there's definitely some good signs for us."
Rogers found glimpses of his very best as the home series against India ran into the holiday period, finishing the four Tests with a run of six consecutive half centuries that the national selector Rod Marsh stated would make him "very hard to leave out" of the Ashes squad. He reckoned that England would be a fitting place to finish, adding that experience of northern summers past would be critical to Australian chances of retaining the urn.
"I owe a lot to England and what they've done for me so it would be a nice way to finish after we lost the last Ashes series there," he said. "We weren't a particularly stable side at the time, but we'll go into this time with a lot more confidence and we'll look to win it.
"There are some guys who are a bit older now and that is why I'm thinking that my time is coming to an end. We need to rebuild if we are to maintain our standards, but I do think that the older guys are holding their own and still playing good cricket. And the other thing is those guys have experience of playing cricket in England and I think that is going to count for a lot."
Beyond 2015, Rogers said he had an understanding with the Middlesex director of cricket - and England selector - Angus Fraser that he would be back for one more season in 2016, thereafter most likely drawing the curtain on a career that has grown in significance with each passing year.
"I have a handshake agreement with Angus Fraser about playing in 2016," he said. "I think both parties would want to be part of that but it's a long way away. But I think it'd be another nice way to finish - to play at Middlesex, where I feel at home and have a lot of support."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig