Fourth Test, Durham, Day 2, Saturday 10 August 2013
England 238; Australia 5/222 (Rogers 101*)
Australia trails by 16 runs, with 5 wickets in hand.
Aged almost 36, Chris Rogers – late of many English county teams, including grittily northern Derbyshire, and far-too-late to the Australian team – has scored the kind of stand-out maiden Test century in bowler-loving conditions that recalls Bill Lawry’s stand at Lord’s in 1961 and Greg Chappell at the same ground 11 years later.
Unlike Lawry’s knock, Rogers has stamped his mark too late to win the Ashes, but he has raised the possibility of a 2-2 share in England (as in 1972) and certainly boosted ticket sales for the return bout here from November. Cricket Australia’s marketing guru Mike McKenna may not recognise Rogers as a star of any BBL T20 franchise, but will learn to love him for the lucre that his innings now promises for CA.
Unlike the bland ‘Durham ICG’ title shown on the TV screen, I prefer the informal name of Chester-le-Street’s ground, Riverside. The river flowing between its eastern boundary and Lumley Castle cresting the hill opposite is the Wear. Twenty miles or so downstream, the Wear’s last bend before it empties into the unlovely North Sea houses the Stadium of Light, home of Sunderland FC.
Sunderland’s 1-0 victory over Leeds in the 1973 FA Cup final was one of the great sporting moments – a Division Two struggler knocking over one of the most loathed tyrants of any comp in sporting history. None dared hope that Ian Porterfield’s goal on 31 minutes would be decisive, until goal-keeper Jim Montgomery pulled off one of the all-time saves 20 minutes from time, to parry a rocket from Peter Lorimer up onto the bar and away to safety. So sank Billy Bremner’s Damned Untitled, to universal glee.
To be honest, the Geordie country around Durham is far more soccer than cricket-oriented: Sunderland, Newcastle United, Hartlepool (‘Keep Hartelpool Beautiful’ said the hugely ironic sign on its railway platform rubbish bins). Durham only entered the CountyChampionship in 1992 (though it has recently won two Division One titles). Before the likes of Harmison, Collingwood and Onions gained a local stage to perform on, previous north-eastern cricketers – like Tom Graveney and the late, much loved Colin ‘Ollie’ Milburn (181 between lunch and tea for WA at the Gabba in 1968) – had to go south and west to get into the first-class game en route to the England team.
It’s easier to imagine Jack Ford from When The Boat Comes In and Oz and Dennis from Auf Wiedershen, Pet making a racket at St James Park, Newcastle (‘ah, ya jorkin’, ref!’) than 20 miles down the road at the Riverside (‘thet Tony Hill! Wheera yeah geddem, mon?’). Unlike its gritty industrial neighbours, Durham itself and nearby satellites like Chester-le-Street are genteel, greener-than-green towns dominated by medieval churches and castles and a long-established university. Even the Riverside ground has a rural ‘greenfields’ look, featuring low-slung pavilions and boxes (a bit of Centurion Park in places), with the crowd numbers pumped up for the Test by obviously temporary stands. I don’t like its perfect roundness, either; I like English cricket grounds to verge on the rectangular – mini Adelaide Ovals – like Lord’s, and with vertical and horizontal mower lines on the outfield. The Riverside is mown in circles, like the SCG used to be. Sorry: grass circles just do it for me – play this Test at Leeds, where history looms large and the crowd gives it to you good.
Perhaps because (like Hobart), Durham’s few Tests to date have been a thin gruel of Bangladeshis and Gayle-less West Indians freezing in May, spectators there don’t seem to quite know how to react. Despite the presence of the Barmy Army in the current match, the crowd doesn’t generate any of the boisterous atmosphere of, say, Headingley and Edgbaston – even Billy Cooper’s trumpet sounds distant. (Though I must say that the de rigueur Saturday cartoon costumes fit in very well with the weather oop nowth.)
All that said, Durham is nearly 100 miles north of Leeds, Test cricket’s previous Arctic outpost– and that almost always means a wicket that will make for, shall we say …challenging cricket. ‘Sporting’…
Yes, we have no Onions
Two excellent maidens from Siddle and Bird cut off England’s tail without addition. Bird’s full length and late swing immediately spotlighted the absence of the local Durham bowling machine, Graeme Onions from England’s team. The pitch had quickened from Day1, and under clouds, was offering plenty for any quick bowler on his game.
Broad the Odious delivered on this threat immediately, castling an uncomprehending Warner with the last ball of his first over. Warner may have been born to Tweet, but not to bat at 53 degrees north. His swift exit allowed us no time to fully ponder whether Warner and Rogers constitute Australia’s ugliest opening pair of all time.
The last ball of Broad’s second over did for Khawaja, who showed how not to deal with a poisonous snake: if opportunity presents, and a machete or golf club is handy, behead; otherwise, leave well alone – do not wave a vague hand (or bat toe) in its direction. For many reasons (mainly to retrieve the Australian game from Anglo bogans), I want Khawaja to succeed in Test cricket, but with the exception of his contribution to the run chase at the Wanderers in late 2011, he hasn’t cut it. True, he’s drawn most of the short straws (England, South Africa, and Sri Lanka at Galle), but he couldn’t cash in against the Kiwis, either. His bright future is now visible in the rear-view mirror.
Late, decisive movements and soft by Clarke and Rogers showed the way for a while, before Clarke was distracted by crowd movement and threw all the good work down the drain, as Cook clung onto a climbing slash at slip.
Rogers was (correctly – we must now, sadly, remark upon this fact) reprieved by the DRS from both caught behind and LBW off the same Broad delivery, following the inevitable error by the inescapable Tony Hill. (Heaven help young batsmen making their way in NZ.) Sky TV’s commentators constantly referred to Rogers’ luck. I prefer to think that he made his luck. On sporting wickets in the 60s and 70s, an another unfashionable left-hander, John Edrich lived by this maxim: forget the last ball, and watch the next. So, whatever Andrew ‘Pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey’ Hilditch may have wished for, on went Rogers.
Steve Smith combines a technique for park cricket with a stomach to fight it out at the highest level. Helped by the eventual withdrawal of Broad from the attack, he and Rogers saw Australia to lunch. Not for long afterwards, though. Commentating on Sky, Shane Warne pointed out that Smith’s technique has improved. True…ish: Smith now addresses the ball at an angle of 45 degrees, rather than completely square-on as previously. Warney’s ‘make it happen’ gifts may have now deserted him in the box, though – he essayed his ‘improved’ remark at the very moment that Bresnan was advancing to deliver Smith’s pink slip; a slack edge of yore left Australia at 4-76, and given Broad’s raging momentum, the prospect of conceding a significant and dangerous deficit.
Two escapes turn the tide
Within five overs of claiming Smith, England lost the iniative, and over the four succeeding hours, probably lost the Test. Having scored just 5, Australia’s born-again number six, Watson plonked a Watson plonk straight back to Bresnan, whose left-hand snatch was not fit for purpose.
Broad’s sensational next over cost 11 of the streakiest runs imaginable, which was more a massive serve of bad karma for him than anything resembling cricketing justice. Looking for his fifty, Rogers flashed at another snake that leapt away from him off the pitch. At second slip, Swann understandably dived right to an edge that may or may not have carried through to Cook, but only managed to parry the ball behind Prior to facilitate the milestone run. Had those chances stuck, Australia would have been 6–90-odd, with two new batsmen at the crease and Broad threatening to sweep away the dregs single-handedly within the hour.
But after their escapes, Rogers and the Man For All Gripes held firm, till Broad at length withdrew. This then exposed the inconvenient truth that throughout each match of this Ashes, England have relied on no more than two batsmen and one bowler to get the better of Australia: at Notts, Bell, Broad (in both of his second innings as a batsmen) and Anderson; at Lord’s, Bell again, Root and Swann; and at Old Trafford, Pietersen alone (perhaps aided by some magic tape – or perhaps not).
Despite getting Smith’s wicket here and his (largely notional) batting, the post-injury Bresnan has not added to England’s team in this series what the tall, threatening Tremlett might have at Manchester and the rangy, relentless Onions would almost certainly have done here at Chester-le-Street. At his best, Onions flows like the rushing Rhone River to and through the bowling crease, varying his line, length, lift and movement just enough to keep batsmen constantly doubtful, his slips cordon constantly alert, and umpires fully employed (even the unemployable Hill).
But having made his bed otherwise, Cook was compelled to fall back on Bresnan, who presented less threat with each over, and Anderson, who’s frankly lost it in since dragging England over the line at Trent Bridge. In that match, and so many others in the last four years, Anderson displayed all the flowing rhythm of Onions, with extra pace and a mastery of both orthodox and reverse swing. But his 14-over spell in heatwave conditions to snatch victory on the final day of that First Test seems to have shot Anderson’s bolt. Now he approaches the crease with same laboured attempt to force his action that was evident when he gifted runs to Australia in the Adelaide Meltdown of 2006. If Jimmy can’t take advantage of ideal conditions in Durham, he may need to be ‘list managed’ for the Oval (or at least, rest for all nine days before the match).
Swann, the obvious plug for these gaps in England’s attack, may have damaged his right hand in attempting to catch Rogers. Whether that was true or not, Cook ignored him, to the point of preferring Trott’s trundles in the run-up to the tea break. (And that move proved…really, no point whatsoever. Why not Root – or Prior, even?)
Nerds and Julios
Briefly the former openers for this team, Rogers and Watson are the oddest of pairs. In Steve Waugh’s terminology, Australian Test teams are divided between Nerds (i.e. Rick Moranis et al; think S Waugh himself or Mike Hussey in the Test team) or Julios (after the preening ‘singer’ Julio Iglesias: exhibits, Fox Sports’ very own ‘Human Shirt’, Brendan Julian, and our current Test captain). So here then, we had Rogers and Watto; join your own dots. In this case, opposites attract. The educated deflections behind point and works to leg favoured by Rogers complement the meaty drives through extra cover and pulls over mid-wicket favoured by Watson.
(Mark Doyle Almanac immaturity alert – cheap shot time.) More praise to Watson, given that he was forced to wait out the two hours of Australia’s early carnage from a player’s balcony with a perfect view across the ground to Lumley Castle, from whose luxury accommodation he had fled in 2005, apparently haunted by the ghost of the medieval Lily Lumley. (Why not Joanna Lumley? I want to imagine Watto fleeing down the castle corridors, chased by the amorous ghost of Ab Fab’s Patsy, after she’d been killed off by the Stolly and the Bolly.)
After hoisting Australia from shaky double figures to the safety of 205 without loss, Watson, on 68, tickled Broad around the corner to a great dive from Prior. Another unconverted 50, true – but better than all of those unconverted 20’s and 30s he posted earlier in this series…and no wasted reviews that I could see, either.
The reviews were mostly saved for the preservation of Rogers (a much more deserving cause). In the early 90s, he narrowly survived a close stumping off Swann, off whom he then spooned a leading edge just short of mid-on during a 36-ball anchor-drop on 96. The welcome boundary through square leg finally came just after Watson’s exit, and Rogers remained with Haddin until stumps.
If the latter prospers while Rogers endures, a lead of 100 or more is now on the cards, and that should be enough. And – despite all the misses, all the edges, and all the referrals – it has been built on the foundations of a great fighting innings by a poorly treated Australian cricketer who everyone really wants to pull for.
The match situation is sufficiently far advanced now that the potential of Durham’s weather to negate a result should be neutralised. When England starts its repair job at the crease, at least two of Cook, Trott and Pietersen must relocate their variously missing gears, judgments and commitments. (Pietersen’s shocking misfielding yesterday can’t all be down to him carrying an injury, can it?).
If not, then I’m sorry, Stuart Broad, but it’s Auf Wiedershen, Petulant.