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Rogers produces Lord's miracle

George Dobell at Lord's
May 1, 2014
Chris Rogers' cover driving was a feature of his wonderful innings © Getty Images
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Middlesex 123 (Sidebottom 4-34) and 472 for 3 (Rogers 241*, Robson 77, Dexter 72*) beat Yorkshire 178 (Plunkett 56*, Finn 4-50) and 416 (Ballance 130, Root 63, Lyth 54, Finn 4-89) by seven wickets
Scorecard

The queue of spectators waiting to buy a copy of the scorecard at the end of this match told its own story: those present on the final day of this game at Lord's knew they had seen something special. You might even call it the miracle of Lord's.

Chris Rogers, with a chanceless and unbeaten double-century, led his Middlesex side to a remarkable victory. Only twice in the history of the County Championship has a side successful chased more than the 472 achieved here. Only five times has a side scored more in the fourth innings of a Championship match. Middlesex have never scored as many to win at Lord's.

But so masterful was Rogers' innings that he made this run chase - this almost impossible run chase - appear simple. While no other batsman looked comfortable, the 36-year-old Rogers made a highly impressive Yorkshire attack look ordinary in recording the 67th first-class century and the 10th double-century of a career that keeps rising to new heights. Angus Fraser, the Middlesex director of cricket and a man not prone to hyperbole, rated it "as good an innings as I've seen from a Middlesex player in my time at the club."

"I've seen special innings from Desmond Haynes, Mike Gatting, Mark Ramprakash and Jacques Kallis, but I don't think I've seen anything to better that," Fraser told ESPNcricinfo. "I'm numb, to be honest. It's a big statement, but I think that's one of the great Middlesex performances. It's a game supporters will be talking about in decades time. It was special."

Rogers, who struck 37 crisp boundaries in his 290 ball master-class, rated it the best innings of his career and admitted afterwards he gave his side little hope when their chase began. He also confirmed afterwards that participation in the 2015 Ashes series remains a target.

"I didn't give us any chance," Rogers said. "I just wanted us to go and play without fear. I was so disappointed with the way we batted in the first innings.

"So to play an innings like, be not out and win chasing 470 that's the kind of thing you dream about as a cricketer. It was almost a perfect run chase. Yes, I think it was [my best innings].

"People tell you that once you get to your mid- thirties it's time to call it a day. But I keep surprising myself with my body and my enjoyment. I'm hoping to get to the Ashes next year. That would be an amazing way to finish."

It was not, perhaps, as awe-inspiring an innings as Gordon Greenidge's match-winning performance here in 1984. But for strength of character, for determination and for sheer inevitability, this was an innings of the highest-class. Yorkshire's bowlers will be having nightmares about his cover drive - a shot he played so often and so well that Joe Root, in his first match as captain, was powerless to stop it - for weeks to come.

There will be, inevitably, some criticism of the Yorkshire bowling. While they were not at their best - they failed to maintain a consistent enough line or length to build any meaningful pressure - they were unfortunate to encounter a fine player in the best of form and a slow pitch that had eased considerably in the warm summer sunshine.

When a man is in the sort of touch where he can drive length balls for four and treat back of length balls as if they are long-hops, any faults are going to be magnified. Yorkshire really did not bowl that badly and Root really could not have done too much differently. Sometimes you just have to accept that someone has played better than you.

Still, their coach Jason Gillespie was disappointed in their performance. "We didn't get our skills right and we paid the price," Gillespie said. "We were pretty poor on the third day. There were far too many half-volleys, far too many short balls. We gave Rogers too many four balls and it gave them a lot of confidence. To some extent we let him play the way he did. You can't afford that at first-class level. Our bowlers have to take stock and learn from this."

The defeat is not a fatal blow to Yorkshire's Championship credentials, though. Even at this early stage of the season, only two sides - Durham and Somerset - have yet to suffer defeat. While Yorkshire will surely suffer more from England call-ups than most, they also have the likes of Tim Bresnan and Jonny Bairstow to come back into the team. Still, it is worth noting that, for all the international players produced by the club, none of the first-class counties has currently gone so long (since 2002) without winning some silverware (including Division Two titles) as Yorkshire.

They did not enjoy much luck on the final day, either. Dawid Malan, on 28, edged just short of the slips and Neil Dexter, whose late barrage followed a sticky start, was controversially given the benefit of the doubt on 21 when it was unclear whether his edge behind had carried. When Ryan Sidebottom, armed with the second new ball, beat Rogers with a couple of beauties, Yorkshire's hopes rose once more but, after that threat ebbed, victory become inevitable. Even with the game beyond them, though, Liam Plunkett had the hostility to inflict a painful blow on Rogers' body with a short ball.

While an Australian produced the match-defining contribution, there was plenty here to cheer England followers, too. Both Sam Robson and Gary Ballance batted well and Steven Finn showed signs of improvement after his chastening winter with England. It seems unlikely England will rush him back into the fold - in Rogers' words "his confidence is still a little bit fragile and even he would say he's not bowling as well as previously" - but from the husk of the man who was sent home early from Australia, a fearsome fast bowler is starting to emerge once again. His international career is not over.

The match was less positive for Eoin Morgan. His unconvincing second innings ended when he gloved a somewhat frenetic sweep and, with the ODI against Scotland likely to rule him out of the next round of games - it seems England will not allow substitutions to be made and instead rest players for the first two days and then stage a training game on Tuesday and Wednesday - he will have few more opportunities to impress in red ball cricket. If England really do see him as part of their Test plans, a strong case could be made to allow him to miss the ODI to play another round of Championship matches.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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