4th Test, Melbourne

Australia v England, 2013-14

Chloe Saltau

Chris Rogers made his first Test century on home soil, Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 4th day, December 29, 2013
Australia's opener Chris Rogers made his first Test century on home soil in the fourth Test © Getty Images
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Tour and tournament reports : Australia v England, 2013-14
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Teams: Australia | England

At Melbourne, December 26-29, 2013. Australia won by eight wickets. Toss: Australia.
Much of the Boxing Day Test was played on England's terms, in an attritional style. But at the end, the Australian players and their families gathered for a celebration, every bit as satisfied as when they raucously welcomed the return of the Ashes in Perth. While Johnson received the official accolade for his malevolent spell with the second new ball in the first innings, and for triggering another round of England panic in the second, it was Rogers who took the team's own match award, a tradition - marked by a private presentation - that had begun a few months earlier in England.

Rogers's team-mates could think of no one more deserving, not just because of his contrasting innings of 61 and 116 in the tightest contest of the series, but for the 20,000- odd first-class runs he had on the board before he was granted a second chance in Tests. To make a match-winning century at the grand stadium he called home was, for this adopted Victorian, "what dreams are made of". And perhaps only in his dreams had the 36-year-old Rogers, described before the series by Warner, his opening partner, as a "nudger", played sparkling square-drives like the one carved off Bresnan as Australia motored towards a potentially tricky target of 231 after lunch on the fourth day.

Rogers and Australia felt the love of the biggest crowd ever recorded for a Test completed in four days. Their insurmountable series lead had clearly not diminished public enthusiasm: the attendance of 271,865 at the MCG included 91,112 on Boxing Day, also an official world record, eclipsing the 90,800 who turned out to see Richie Benaud's Australians play Frank Worrell's West Indies here in 1960-61. The Australians cherished this victory more than most because, for only the second time during Clarke's reign as captain, they had overcome a first-innings deficit to win. For England, this was a game of fluffed chances, both with the bat and, on a forgettable fourth morning for Cook, in the field. The sense that England were in disarray had deepened four days before the Test, when Graeme Swann retired, resulting in a recall for Panesar and further insinuations about a joyless atmosphere in the dressing-room.

The decline of another senior player, Matt Prior, led to a change behind the stumps for the first time in 60 Tests dating back to March 2009: Bairstow took the gloves. Clarke walked out for the toss intending to bat first, only to change his mind when he got there. "I can't believe I'm saying this," he half-winced under cloudy skies. "We're going to have a bowl." For much of the day he wondered if he had made the right decision, as England reached lunch one wicket down, and tea at a painstaking 135 for three.

Watson had bowled Carberry, shouldering arms for 38, with a lovely inswinger from round the wicket, but pulled up during his seventh over, and had to leave the field with a groin niggle. Pietersen then suppressed his aggressive urges against disciplined Australian bowling for four hours, getting to stumps on 67, and moving past Geoffrey Boycott's tally of 8,114 runs into fourth place on England's Test run-scoring list. He had received a letoff on six, when substitute fielder Nathan Coulter-Nile, on for Watson, made a comical mess of a catch at fine leg. Clutching a careless pull off Harris after Pietersen had inched to six from 44 deliveries, he staggered backwards towards the boundary, and tried to toss the ball inside the field of play. Instead, he threw it over his head and into the crowd. It would be Pietersen's only outlandish shot of an ascetic afternoon.

The game changed when Johnson took the second new ball, heralding a vicious spell of nine overs, split across the first evening and second morning, that yielded five for 18. His first ball on the second day reared up at the throat of Bresnan, who could only fend to short leg. Pietersen, no longer a picture of self-denial, seemed to be unsettled by a nasty bouncer two deliveries later; two balls after that, he was bowled for 71, attempting a wild slog.

Having resumed at 226 for six, England crumpled to 255 - damningly, their highest first innings score of the series. Johnson would finish with the tenth five-wicket haul of his Test career - and an unshakeable hold over the batsmen. Australia's first innings had followed a familiar pattern, as they slumped to 122 for six before Haddin once more rode to the rescue. Anderson had finally found his spark, and Clarke scratched out ten before losing his off stump when he left one that nipped back.

Generally, the Australians lost patience. Rogers was struck a fierce blow on the helmet by Broad, causing blood to trickle from his temple. A replacement helmet did not fit properly, and neither did the one after that, so Rogers wore four different helmets during the innings. When he looped a drive to mid-off, Haddin marched in and pounded the old ball. When he was joined by No. 11, Lyon he told him to swing. With Cook setting obligingly defensive fields, they put on 40 to ensure Australia trailed by only 51 - still sizeable on a grudging track, but hardly insurmountable in a series where England kept finding ways to stuff it up.

With a buffer of 116 and nine wickets by the time Cook departed on the third afternoon for a fluent half-century - his strike-rate of nearly 80 was the highest for any of the 60 Test innings in which he had made 50 - England should have set Australia more than 300. Instead, they lost wickets in two grisly clumps: three for one, then five for six. Suddenly Australia were chasing a more manageable 231. Johnson had again played like a superhero, dismissing Cook with reverse swing, and throwing down the stumps to run out Root, who had thoughtlessly chanced a single to his left hand at mid-off. But the afternoon belonged to a more understated figure.

Lyon used flight and drop, rather than turn, to remove five England batsmen for 50, but those figures didn't begin to sum up the significance of his achievement. When Broad edged him lustily to slip, Lyon became only the sixth Australian off-spinner to reach 100 Test wickets. A laconic lad who looked as if he could be swept off his feet by the blustery wind, he could not contain his glee as he held up the ball to celebrate his first five-for in Australia after Pietersen, running out of partners for the second time in the match, tried to launch him over long-off.

Underrated for much of his career by opponents such as Pietersen, and by selectors who at various stages in India and England had preferred Xavier Doherty, Glenn Maxwell and Ashton Agar, Lyon knew he had the appreciation of his team-mates. After Bell had one of his aberrations against spin and bunted a tame catch first ball to mid-off, Lyon was scooped up in a hug by Johnson. There were signs of wear and tear among the Australians; Watson, back on the field now, bowled four laborious overs, and Harris managed only ten because of a red-raw blister on the back of his heel. England still folded hopelessly for 179.

Australia were 30 without loss overnight, and England needed to strike early on the fourth day to have any hope of derailing a whitewash. That hope was dashed within half an hour. With Rogers on 19, an edge off Broad flew within reach of Bairstow, who didn't move a muscle; diving belatedly to his right at slip, Cook couldn't hang on. From that moment on, Rogers performed an admirable impersonation of his more audacious opening partner, slapping the next ball over the slips. Two overs later, Cook dropped the simplest of chances, with Warner on 22, this time off Stokes. Warner added only three more, but the emboldened Australians knew they were on their way to victory - and England knew it too.

Cook looked all alone as he stood at first slip contemplating life. He was asked whether he felt he was the right man to captain England after such a spectacular unravelling - "100%," he insisted, but he found it hard to explain why he had waited until the 30th over to bowl Panesar, by which time Root had already sent down four overs of gentle off-breaks. Cook said he had been expecting the ball to reverse, though his assertion that he wanted the off-spinner bowling to the two left-handed openers did not necessarily tally with that.

Regardless, Rogers - unshackled by the retirement of Swann, who had accounted for seven of his first 17 Test dismissals - played with such freedom that team-mates poked fun at Warner for being outpaced. Rogers was typically modest: "Congratulations to Swanny for such a great career, but I was probably the biggest winner out of it all." At 36 years 120 days, he became the oldest Australian opener to hit a Test century since 39-year-old Lindsay Hassett at Lord's in 1953.

Rogers eventually fell to Panesar after a partnership of 136 in just 28 overs with Watson, who whipped the winning runs though the leg side, clenched his fist and gathered Clarke - who had followed Cook to 8,000 Test runs - in a mid-pitch embrace. Not since the captain declared behind in Barbados in April 2012 had his side triumphed after trailing on first innings. That sweetened the victory for the Australians, who marched to Sydney determined to finish the job.
Man of the Match: M. G. Johnson. Attendance: 271,865.

© John Wisden & Co.