Sydney – ESPNcricinfo
On the day Graeme Swann surprised many by choosing to retire mid-Ashes series, a handful of astute observers chanced some money on a Chris Rogers century in the Boxing Day Test. Late that same afternoon, Rogers afforded himself a gentle smile at the thought his major nemesis over eight Test matches would not be around to frustrate him any longer.
A week later, as he basked in the afterglow of a century to deliver victory in the fourth Test, Rogers was happy to admit he was the greatest beneficiary of a sudden exit that disappointed England’s coach, Andy Flower. Freed from the shackles Swann had placed on him at times in the past, Rogers’ double of 61 and 116 at the MCG was the difference between victory and defeat, whatever the Man-of-the-Match adjudicators might have thought.
“Congratulations to Swanny for such a great career but I was probably the biggest winner out of it all,” Rogers said after the Australian squad arrived in Sydney. “There’s been times when I’ve felt pretty good at the crease and comfortable except for Swann. He’s the one guy I’ve always found difficult even just to score runs. So with him out of the side it was not going to be mentally exhausting having to face their attack.”
There was absolutely nothing mentally exhausted about the way Rogers played in the second innings, scoring with a speed and fluency that surprised even a few of his teammates. Occasionally Rogers can find such a vein, as he did on day one of the Old Trafford Test also, but he does not expect to become a dominator after the fashion of the latter-day Justin Langer.
“We spoke about utilising the new ball, as the best time to score was against the new ball. That gave me a license to go out and be positive,” Rogers said. “From there, things just went well, I started to hit the ball better than I had been and it all snowballed really quickly.
“I’m not sure that’s how I’ll go out and bat all the time. Nice to do that every now and then. But still circumstance dictates that you change up your pace, so if we’re in trouble you can’t really get out playing risky shots. So I’ll still weigh up the situation.”
As pointed out by the batting coach Michael Di Venuto, Rogers fought himself for much of the series before finding some semblance of his best touch in Perth. He still played a key role in the first two Tests, building partnerships with more fluent team-mates, but was glad to now be striking the ball more as he had wished to, as part of a team eying a 5-0 sweep of the Englishmen.
“In this series, I haven’t felt great,” Rogers conceded. “I haven’t been hitting the ball well but the lead up to Perth was really good and I started to finally feel I was hitting the ball a bit like I was in England. Apart from the run-out there, it’s been going quite well.
“There’s no way I thought we were going to be in this position, I must admit. I thought we were going in the right direction and, at times in England, we played some really good cricket but to be 4-0 up that’s just exceptional. England are a good side, they haven’t played the way they would have hoped to but I think that’s credit to us.
“It would be quite nice for all the guys who have played in the whole series to be rewarded at the end. If you were to miss out this game to be presented with a victory at the end, wouldn’t be as sweet so I guess everyone is keen to play. We made sure we watched England when they won at The Oval and still can remember how that felt. So to be on the other side this time is fantastic and I’m sure we’ll milk every moment of it.”
Beyond Sydney, the calendar shifts to limited-overs modes, while the Twenty20 Big Bash League bubbles along concurrently. For Rogers, this will be a time of welcome relaxation before the Test tour of South Africa in February – a stint of club cricket is not on his agenda.
“No chance in hell [of playing club cricket],” Rogers said, grinning. “Going to take some time off and just recoup really. I think 12 months of the year playing cricket, every chance you get to have some time off, I don’t think the Prahran boys will be too disappointed with me not being around there.”