After focussing on the central role of Ben Stokes in the wake of England’s win in Cardiff and his superiority over Shane Watson, it is now time to focus on the crucial cog in the Australian machine that brought this Investec Ashes series back to 1-1 at Lord’s, Chris Rogers.
Rogers was operating on another level entirely to his English counterpart, Adam Lyth. Rogers’s first innings 173, when he batted the entirety of Day 1, laid a platform that England were never going to be able to clamber onto.
Going into this series, England would have been targeting Rogers. He’s set to retire at the conclusion of this Ashes series and England may well have sensed a weak link that would enable them to get Steve Smith to the crease against the new ball early on.
Instead, Rogers has amassed 327 runs at an average of 109 in the first two Tests. Lyth has 50 at an average of 12.50.
To further highlight this mismatch, Lyth scored seven runs from 18 balls during the entire Lord’s Test. Rogers scored 222 from 411 balls.
It is a problem that England need to solve and solve fast. They are consistently losing top order wickets and when Joe Root and Ben Stokes cannot bail them out, no one can. Alastair Cook, Lyth, Gary Ballance and Ian Bell are, as things stand, vastly inferior to Rogers, Dave Warner, Smith and Michael Clarke. It is a mismatch that is threatening England’s chances of staying competitive in this series, let alone winning it.
We could have focussed on Smith’s superiority over Ballance here, but that’d be a like pointing out that Nathan Lyon isn’t Shane Warne. Smith arrived as the world’s number one ranked batsman and regained that billing after his first innings 215 and second innings 58 at Lord’s. Ballance notched 37 runs all Test.
Rogers is familiar to English conditions having spent much of his career in County cricket. At 37, he knows his own game inside out and has a method that has proved, so far, to be too good for the English bowling attack. His one downfall is his weakness against the short ball and Australia will be hoping that his two helmet-rattling experiences at Lord’s don’t result in similar injuries to those that kept him out of the West Indies tour.
Indeed, if he is suffering from concussion, Shaun Marsh will have to come in for the next Test at Edgbaston. That will be a relief to England. Warner has been the weakest link in the Australian top order so far, but showed signs of his talent at Lord’s and is the fourth highest scorer in the series so far, with 190 runs to his name. Rogers has made the perfect accompaniment to an exciting top three.
Whilst Rogers hopes to conclude his career in the form of his life, Lyth is already fighting for his place in this England team. We predicted here at the start of the English summer that Alex Hales would be Cook’s opening partner by the time England head to the UAE to face Pakistan, but that could even be brought forward.
Lyth just doesn’t look up to the task as a Test opener. Looking at the careers of those before him; Nick Compton, Michael Carberry and Sam Robson, it doesn’t look good for Lyth.
England saw off the career of Watson in Cardiff, Australia could well have done terminal damage to Lyth’s at Lord’s. Meanwhile, Rogers has made a Test winning contribution that has restored Australia as favourites to retain the urn.
By Miles Reucroft