No Show Pony

Leaving aside the white noise of hype and counter-hype which now accompanies every series during which the Ashes are at stake, the oldest international contest in Test cricket draws much of its enduring strength from its rich seam of events and memories.

If you can name it it has happened during an Ashes series: crushing wins and humiliating defeats, teams devising innovative strategies to hinder and humiliate their opponents, spectators assaulting players, teams losing after enforcing the follow-on, governments expressing their disapproval. In Ashes series, things happen.

In this, though, the 2013 series was an outlier. Contested by one side which was better than its opponents but which often failed to function as it knew it could, and another which tried valiantly - and occasionally succeeded - to overcome its inadequacies, it had its moments but, after a magnificent opening contest, it didn’t captivate in the way of most of its recent predecessors.

As always, though, players stood out. Apart from the muscular, highly skilled Ryan Harris, Australia’s successes are harder to define, but one of them was unquestionably Christopher John Llewellyn Rogers, a veteran left-hander from Perth who, for most of his recent adult life, must have felt that his chance to shine at the very highest level had gone for good, swept away in the blizzard of rare talent which kept his nation at the very summit of the world game for more than a decade. He was far from alone in this: batsmen of true quality, such as Matthew Elliott, Brad Hodge, Stuart Law and Martin Love only received brief tastes of life in the Baggy Green. Some were called back, but unlike Rogers, none stayed. In the short term at least, Rogers will.

For years and years, in his native Australia and in England, Chris Rogers has been around, making runs. Unobtrusive, often aesthetically jarring, but remorselessly reliable, he holds the attention for the way he doesn’t quite fit with the stereotypical mind’s-eye images of modern Australian batting. This is no Matthew Hayden, all bulging chest and biceps, repelling the opposition with raw power and naked self-belief, or David Warner, flamboyantly precise in his aggression, or Shane Watson, stubbornly reckless with both strokes and reviews. This is a man who puts the highest of high prices on his wicket and recognizes the value of the controlled push through the on-side, elbows kept close to the body, or the nudge behind square on the off-side. If the bowler fails to find the right line and length he will drive or cut with precision timing, his balance steady and his head still. He is a small, slight man, but his strokes lack nothing in power.

Rogers was never a prodigy and his thirty-sixth birthday looms. Although in recent English seasons he’s usually been found in the home dressing room at Lord’s wearing the Middlesex seaxes, he’s more familiar with the sparsely populated surroundings of Derby or Wantage Road than the world’s Test grounds. A show pony he is not.

In Australia's age of decline, the Ashes series of 2013 has given Rogers the chance, in his own understated way, to show the world what he can do.

Age and circumstances dictate that it will not last long, but it is no more than he deserves.

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