Chris Rogers waits no more

Chris Rogers was made to wait 19 balls, 30 minutes, 35 years and 344 days for his first Test century.

It was awkward, tense, ugly and hard fought. Much like most of Rogers’ career. From 96 to 100, it was even worse.

He went to 96 with style and authority. A full toss raced off Rogers’ bat to the cover boundary. It was a gift that Graeme Swann is prone to give but, given Rogers’ recent history with Swann full tosses, he might have thought it was trap.

Then Swann gave another gift. This one was short and cuttable. Rogers hit it well, but straight to point. Immediately he backed away, went for a walk, showed the annoyance with himself that betrayed how calm he had looked only a few seconds earlier. England saw it too. Prior’s noise level tripled.

Rogers tried to cheat a bit. Instead of waiting for the bad ball, or just pushing for a single, he tried to flick Swann against the spin. The ball took the leading edge and then it hung in the air on its way to mid-on for what seemed like hours. For Rogers, it must have felt like years. Eventually it dropped safely. Michael Clarke had his hands over his face. As did Swann, for another reason.

Rogers has to wait some more.

At the non-striker’s end Rogers watched Shane Watson, a batsman who is not renowned for his single taking, or his clear-headed running between wickets. Watson got one chance, but it became two. Then the umpires called drinks.

Rogers has to wait some more.

It may have actually happened, or it may have been imagined, but England stretched out the drinks break as long as they could. Rogers nervously squirted water in his mouth. Mouth wide open, squirting a new drop every second and half. He looked like a baby bird that was being fed. Occasionally Rogers would laugh politely at Watson’s attempt to lighten the mood.

Back at the crease, Matt Prior was back in his ear. England seemed to tighten the field by an inch each ball, Swann wouldn’t give him anything. Rogers found the inside half of the bat, England made it feel like the ball had hit the stumps without the bails coming off. Rogers brushed the pitch with his hand. It was the kind of gardening you do when you desperately don’t want to think about anything else.

Another leading edge looped up on the leg side. In real terms, it landed safely. In real time, it seemed to just drop at the last minute as it sailed easily towards a pair of hands.

Watson now looked nervous as well. His batting was aimed at getting Rogers on strike, and he couldn’t do it. England had tightened his field as well. That missed cut shot was affecting everyone. A ball into the leg side got him running, Rogers went too and there was a millisecond of confusion. Both men made it safely home. Neither looked safe. A ball was fired down the leg side to Watson, he got just enough bat on it to find the keeper.

Rogers has to wait some more.

Swann took the pad of Rogers, it was absolutely nowhere near out. So, in this series, it was worth a shout. England didn’t shout for the umpire’s benefit, they shouted for Rogers. It was turned down.

Then Swann got it absolutely right, a ball floating in to middle stump, taking the surface and spinning away hard. Rogers played back to it, completely beaten. He couldn’t have missed it by much more. England make more noise. They keep inching in.

Haddin now had to get a single but his first ball was dug one out off the inside of the bat, floating down to fine leg. Taking just one wasn’t really an option as Kevin Pietersen shuffled around. Then another full ball was dug out, breaking Haddin’s bat.

Rogers has to wait some more.

Swann continued bowling to Rogers. England wouldn’t take him off, Australia couldn’t buy a single. England continued to make noise, inching closer. Rogers now looked beaten. A whole innings of struggle, a whole life of it, seemed to be out there with him. People started to move behind the bowler’s arm. In 20,000 first-class runs he’d never had to deal with this many people moving, watching or judging. They move again.

Rogers has to wait some more.

A full faster one from Swann was seen completely differently by Rogers as he tried to cut it away. It almost bowled him as he almost edged it. It almost did everything. It is another dot ball.

Rogers stayed in the cut position for a long time. Staring down, frozen in fear and worry. There is no part of him that sees triple figures as a largely pointless statistical obsession. He refocused, tried to find something else.

Rogers makes everyone wait.

A sweep. One of cricket’s ugliest shots is how Rogers makes the runs. England go quiet, the crowd cheer. Rogers barely celebrates, just lets it wash all over him. No hype, just relief and happiness. There is a song by Polyphonic Spree called “Acceptance”. It is a 30-minute song. Rogers batted out every minute of it for his acceptance.

Rogers does not have to wait anymore. He is, and forever will be, a Test centurion.

Advertisements
Tagged , ,