the independent & agencies
With the urn already lost, the tourists suffered perhaps their worst defeat of the series, as they had been in a dominant position on the third afternoon. Yet their batting collapse thereafter turned the Test on its head and kept Australia on course for a 5-0 whitewash, with the final Test in Sydney starting on 3 January. Even today, England had their chances, as Australia resumed on 30 without loss, needing 201 more runs to win. Rogers, who plays at the MCG for Victoria, was dropped on 19 by Alastair Cook at first slip off the bowling of Stuart Broad, although wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow should surely have claimed the catch before the ball reached his captain.
Cook had no such excuses shortly afterwards, when David Warner had 22. The opener drove loosely at Ben Stokes and the edge flew straight to Cook, who could not hold on to a regulation chance.
England finally managed to strike with the score on 65. Warner tried to steer a short ball from Stokes over the slip cordon, misjudged the stroke and was caught behind for 25.
That brought Shane Watson, a batsman who has been vulnerable in this series, to the crease. He was not so in this innings, however, as he and Rogers set about dismantling a toothless England attack. Between them, Rogers, Warner and Watson added 113 runs in 27 overs before lunch, at a scoring rate of more than four per over.
Cook’s tactics raised some eyebrows, as he brought the part-time off-spin of Joe Root into the attack before the slow left-arm of Monty Panesar, while Stuart Broad, England’s most dangerous bowler in the series, was under-used. The pattern remained the same after lunch. Rogers, who played superbly, reached his second Ashes hundred with a cover drive off Jimmy Anderson. Watson was similarly fluent in bringing up a 70-ball half-century and he would finish 85 not out. Meanwhile, paceman Harris and all-rounder Watson are in some doubt to play in this week’s final Ashes Test.