Chris Rogers © Getty Images
Some attractive shots through the off side were studded in Chris Rogers’ gritty knock © Getty Images

Chris Rogers looked awkward and jittery for a significant part of his gritty knock on Day One of the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval, but it was valuable in the circumstances, as Abhishek Mukherjee explains.

When Chris Rogers took guard in his the first innings of his last international outing for Australia, there was the customary pain ready for him. It seems this has been the routine for a significant portion of his batting career: facing fast, swinging deliveries in the first hour of the morning, or at the start of an innings, from fresh seamers ready to get their juices flowing, and negotiating them with leaves and defences that are, a number of times, ungainly and awkward. Yet, Rogers is not a particularly unattractive batsman to watch. There are drives and cuts to savour, and sometimes he even brings out the fierce pull. On the first day at The Oval, his boundaries were delightful snippets of pleasure amid the necessary boredom of attritional cricket.

He left five deliveries in the first over he faced from Stuart Broad before falling over a ball coming into him and thudding on to his pads. By Mark Wood’s fifth over, Rogers had scored a solitary run off 10 balls. He played Wood’s short ball awkwardly, went after a full one outside off that nearly got his edge; he squirted the next two balls in a jittery fashion, and edged to slip in the final ball, but it fell short of the fielder. READ: Chris Rogers receives special guard of honour

He was tested in the next few overs by both bowlers. There were pokes, squirts, defences and leaves. The shots he looked to connect either travelled to fielders positioned nearby, or were ungainly played to prevent any reward. When Alastair Cook finally made a bowling change at the start of the 12th over, Rogers had ambled to a 32-ball 2.

After two maidens from Ben Stokes, Australia struck their first boundary. It was the 15th over. David Warner latched on to a short ball to execute a pull. Rogers, off the last ball of that over, square drove for his first boundary, to move to 8 off 43 balls. READ: Chris Rogers will be hard to replace in the Australian batting line-up

The gained confidence allowed Rogers to bring the flowing strokes out of his closet. There were a few more cuts and square-drives off the first-change pair of Stokes and Steven Finn, but there was some caution again as Broad came on to bowl an over before lunch.

The first over Broad bowled after lunch had Rogers climbing on to a rare punishable delivery — a half-volley outside off — which gave him his fifth boundary. There was an encore in another over from Broad, indicating the keen eye with which he waited for his chances. Finally, Wood was attacked as well: the lack of bite of these bowlers by this time of the day profiting the diminutive left-hander. READ: David Warner, Chris Rogers go past 2000 partnership runs on opening day of 5th Ashes Test at The Oval

After an innings of typical restraint, some shaky-looking moments of negotiation of seam bowlers, and seven gratifying boundaries, all stroked through the arc between third-man and mid-off, Rogers edged Wood to slip to hand the opposition their first scalp.

He did not get to his half-century when his partner was batting on 64, but Rogers did his job. A safe start was needed for a batting order prone to collapse, at least as suggested by the last two Tests, and was duly provided after all the scraps. This is what will be missed by Australia in the future, a quality that is perhaps is not fully reflected in the numbers Rogers has generated.

By staying at the crease and blunting the bowling attacks time and again, Rogers has made sure throughout his career that the strokeplayers got the license to go for the kill. Rogers has also counterattacked aggressively, but his value to the Australian team is in the more unnoticed, more identifiable quality of getting past the first hour, an age-old principle not trendy anymore, to pave the way for the flashy men. 43 off 100 balls? It was worth a lot more.