When Australia’s Ashes squad was announced last month, much of the fuss surrounded the recall of a Middlesex opener at the age of 35.
Chris Rogers, now with his fifth county, has started the season in fine form once again, providing the Australian selectors with a reminder about quite how ridiculous it is that someone with nearly 20,000 first class runs has just a solitary cap.
His selection is a short-term fix, however, as by the time the autumn draws in, Rogers will have turned 36, barely younger than the wizened old dogs he is replacing, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey.
Rogers is joined at the top of the order by another Australian, Sam Robson. Robson is 12 years his junior, but has the same insatiable desire to score big runs as his opening partner.
There’s a catch for the Australians though; Robson is set to spurn the chance to don the Baggy Green in favour of fighting for a place in the team of his adopted homeland.
This could be a big blow for Australia as there weren’t many 23-year-olds making the weight of runs last season in the Sheffield Shield that Robson has been racking up for Middlesex.
The dearth of high class run makers was clear in the selection of Rogers, a man who most assumed had played his last (and only) Test match and was destined to go down in history as one of the most criminally under-capped cricketers ever.
Rogers selection was absolutely correct, however, as only Ricky Ponting scored more than his 742 runs in the Shield last season. However, it looks like Australia are going to miss out on a potential long term answer to their dearth of big runs at the top of the order.
Born in Sydney in 1989, Robson cites Michael Slater as his boyhood hero. He grew up in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney but moved to England aged 18 to play club cricket, recommended by Tim Murtagh, still a team-mate at Middlesex who spotted his talent when turning out for his local team in Sydney. Robson holds a British due to his Nottingham-born mother.
While Robson is still in touch with Cricket Australia, it is widely expected that he will seek selection for England, as he can’t realistically play first-class cricket in two countries due to the restrictions on overseas players.
The likelihood is he’d have to give up the arrangement he has at Lords in order to play Sheffield Shield, a decision that he certainly wouldn’t take lightly.
Gus Fraser, his Director of Cricket at Middlesex and former England fast bowler certainly expects him to commit to England, saying to reporters: ''Every conversation we've had is that his intention is to play cricket in England as an English-qualified cricketer.”
Fraser concedes, however, that this could change quickly if John Inverarity and his team of Aussie selectors came calling. Robson himself laughed off questions about a late Ashes call-up after a double-ton against Warwickshire, saying he was loving life in London and that “England is where it is at for me”.
If he does go on to play for England, Australia may have really missed a trick. Fraser compares him to a young Michael Atherton for his obdurate approach to batting but this winter he has added a little more flare to his game and his regularly scored quicker than Rogers this year.
His strike-rate this season is considerably better than his career strike rate: he’s gone from 49 to 58. Despite his improved rate of scoring, he’s certainly not as a flashy a stroke-maker as his hero Slater.
When you score as many runs as Robson has at the start of this season, however, it doesn’t matter how you get them. Sheer weight of runs has forced him onto both England and Australia’s selectors radars and it would be no surprise to see him in the next England Lions squad.
He sits behind only England’s current golden boy Joe Root at the top of the first-class run scoring list this season, with his nine innings yielding 645 runs coming at a spectacular average of 107.5.
The highlight, of course, was the spectacular 215 not out at Edgbaston but there have been other innings of note, including a second innings 129 against Surrey, a knock in which he enjoyed an opening stand of 259 with his compatriot and captain, Rogers.
If he continues to score at this incredible rate, it surely won’t be long until we are seeing S.D.Robson at the top of the order for England. One thing is for certain: Australia’s loss will be the Poms’ gain.
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