Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rogers bucks the trend

It would seem ridiculous to compare a man coming to test cricket so late in life and scoring his maiden test century at the ripe old age of 35 with the one of the modern greats but there was much in Rogers' innings yesterday that a certain J. Langer would have been proud of.

Rogers' hard earned century yesterday was attritional at times - especially on the score of 96 - but there was much there that Matthew Hayden's less celebrated long term opening partner would have been proud of. Rogers is almost certainly not in Langer's class but his grit and spirit was comparable much in the same way that the lesser talented Brad Haddin so echoes Ian Healey at times.

England's total of 238 was almost certainly sub par but Stuart Broad set about restoring the balance of play with an imperious spell of new ball bowling where he was at times unplayable. Warner and Kawaja both got balls that sucked them in not sure whether to play or not. Clarke played loosely on the drive after seemingly being distracted just before by movement in the crowd rather than off the pitch.

Rogers rode his luck at times during that spell from Broad but that is part of being an opening batsmen. There was yet more tedious DRS controversy with Rogers being given out for edging Broad only to be given not out for the edge but found to be out LBW.

Too many column inches have been given over to DRS and it is not the system that is at fault but the people using it. Yesterday was a classic case of international sportsmen in the shape of the England team simply not knowing the rules. Rogers was not out by the laws of the game and rightly stayed at the crease.

After Smith got out cheaply, Shane Watson was brought to the crease. Again in recent days we had written about the possibility of unshackling him by introducing him lower down the order . Again Watson got out without scoring a century but he played with a lot of freedom given the circumstances. Swapping him with Smith in the order and bringing Hughes back at 3 may answer most of Australia's batting conundrums and give them a settled line up finally.

As is often the case, the first hour this morning could be crucial. A lead of 50-100 runs on this pitch could be priceless although Australia do have to bat last and chasing anything more than 200 is going to be extremely uncomfortable. Brad Haddin has the ability to score quickly and England need to get him out cheaply this morning.

Conditions for bowling looked slightly better yesterday and the pitch should deteriorate from here. Australia were also on the receiving end of a spell of bowling from Broad a level above anything England faced on Friday. Despite that Australia still scored more quickly than England did.

Yesterday we spoke about the problems regarding England's scoring rate and whilst Australia didn't actually 'motor on', much of the reason was due to the early wickets lost to Stuart Broad. For all the talk of Rogers' century being not too aesthetically pleasing he outscored the majority of the English batsmen with a scoring rate over 43 as he anchored the innings.

Had Australia scored at England's rate they would only be 190 overnight and the match looking far more in the balance. England will almost certainly be facing a first innings deficit but they need to be far more positive with the bat or Australia will be playing to level the series at the Oval.

England also need a way to get James Anderson back amongst the wickets and it could simply be a case of too much cricket. Should England get a result at Durham, a rest for Jimmy at the Oval may be a good idea however highly unlikely they would drop their premier bowler. His figures however for the third and fourth tests so far are truly dire and there is long winter to come. For the moment he has lost his 'zip' and the ability to make the ball swing.

It was only ever going to be Tim Bresnan at risk of losing out to Graham Onions but Broad surely showed the value yesterday on this pitch of a tall man hitting the pitch hard with an upright seam.

It is not entirely clear whether Graeme Swann has a problem with his spinning finger but it did seem a little odd watching Trott bowl 3 overs of abject mediocrity yesterday whilst Swann had only put down 5 overs at that point. If England are to dig themselves out of yet another possible hole then Swann in the 4th innings and some promising looking rough could well be a trump card.

One thing that is very clear however is that the supposed gulf in class between the sides does not really exist. If all England's players were playing to their full ability then realistically they are the better side but the truth is that Australia are playing the tougher cricket and England now face a battle to win the series before nervous thought is given to the first day at the Gabba - No Nonsense.