Contrasting styles take Rogers and Smith to the top

Chris Rogers and Steven Smith achieved something very special on the opening day at Lord's. They went one better than Bill Woodfull and Don Bradman. Not many cricketers can say that.

When the Australians arrived in 1930, the England team, led by Percy Chapman, did not feel threatened by Bradman. There was no legend back then, only promise. Maurice Tate bowled him out cheaply in the first innings of the first Test at Trent Bridge but he made a hundred in the second innings that flashed a warning light around the land.

In the second Test at Lord's, England won the toss and on a good pitch scored 405 for the loss of nine wickets in the day. Twenty more were added in the morning before Woodfull and his opening partner, Bill Ponsford, surgically picked apart the English attack. In less than three hours, 162 runs were on the board, progress that was rudely interrupted by the King. The match simply stopped at the command of King George V, who met the players of both teams out on the field and was barely back in his seat before Walter Hammond held on to Ponsford at slip.

For the first time at Lord's this brought Bradman to the wicket. He left the away dressing room, skipped down to flight of stairs, turned right in the Long Room, walked past the fascinated members before turning left out of the doors and down the steps where the gateman doffed his top hat, tugged at his tails and said "Good luck, Mr Bradman."

Two hours and forty minutes later, stumps were drawn. Bradman was unbeaten on 155. He crushed dispirited bowlers. No one and nothing could resist him. On return to the little white gates, the gateman again doffed his topper and with relish said "Well played, Mr Bradman!" The Don is purported to have replied with: "Thanks mate, a useful net for the morning."

He batted until ten to three the next day. At no stage in this innings of 254 was a chance given. In all it lasted five and a half hours and included 25 fours, three threes and 26 twos. There were two partnerships that contained all the elements of mastery associated with the very best batsmen of the age. The ball was hit along the ground, the bats were used like wands not clubs and the running between the wickets was electric. Bradman put on 231 with Woodfull and 192 with Alan Kippax.

It was the stand with Woodfull that Rogers and Smith have wiped from the top of the record books. Rogers might have been from that time, Smith is demonstrably not. Rogers does not do sixes. He does cuts, deflections, pushes and nudges. Occasionally he erupts into a drive but it is a rare thing and not one to draw the breath of the crowd. It is admiration that one has for Rogers, not ecstasy. His way his pragmatic, his presence understated. He says he is soon to retire. Perhaps he will rethink.

A year and a while ago, he made two hundred on this ground for Middlesex against Yorkshire. This was no sinecure for Yorkshire have a fine attack and Middlesex were chasing more than 400 to win the game, which they duly did. As Rogers walked back through the gate, he might as well have said: "Useful net for next year."

He is a splendid man - calm, considerate and fair. He applauds the milestones of his opponents with warmth and refrains from unseemly chat. He knows cricket is a damned difficult game and that it can hurt even those already wounded. Thus, he is not one to rub in salt.

His liaisons with David Warner and Smith have something of Laurel and Hardy about them. Different folks living the same life in the same rooms but with different strokes. The relationship between Rogers and Warner is not quite slapstick but not far from it. Were they to have dinner together, the conversation would be a party piece. Their partnerships in the middle are about complimenting one another's play - the dasher and the dead-bat.

Or they were. Rogers went flashing at drives first thing but, after a lucky escape or two, pulled in his head. Warner was in a shell, hounded by the England new ball pair. He survived, briefly prospered but then perished to a shot Rogers would not imagine, let alone play.

Smith is one big fidget: a mischievous puppy in a man's clothing. His style of play is quirky for it is based on an unusual technique. People say this method of walking way across his stumps, bat waving around as if it were a sword, will cost him one day. But one day is a long time coming. He makes hundreds for fun and bowlers who think they have his measure with this plan or that, soon find he has them covered.

He must be an infuriating man at which to bowl. He sucks you into straight deliveries that are whipped past square-leg. He tempts you to bowl a full length, for lbw seems obvious, and then he smashes you down the ground. So you bang the wretched ball into the pitch and he cuts and pulls without a care in the world.

They have put on 259 in 75 overs. They are hungry for more on a pitch that is slow and flat. Some of the demons from Cardiff are already exorcised. The away dressing room is buzzing with possibilities. The home dressing room might take solace from the scorecard in 1930, one that shows the team who chose to bat suffering a heavy defeat after a convincing first innings performance.

Or perhaps that should not look at the scorecard at all. Australia made 729 for 6 declared in that Bradman dominated innings. 729! What does Michael Clarke have in mind? And, for how much longer can Rogers and Smith make England pay for Cardiff?