Matthew Sherry at the Emirates Durham ICG
An emotional Chris Rogers basked in taking an opportunity he never thought would come after becoming the second-oldest Australian to strike a Test century.
Rogers was a surprise call-up for the Investec Ashes having made his sole five-day appearance over five years ago against India.
However, he has been a figure of calm at the top of the tourists’ order during a summer that has seen England regain the little urn after three Tests.
Those efforts were rewarded today as Rogers struck 101 not out – in which he enjoyed some good fortune, particularly when twice benefiting from the Decision Review System – to rescue Australia, who still harbour hopes of emerging from the rubber with a 2-2 draw, from a difficult position.
In a moving press conference after the day’s play, he said: “There have been times when sides have been picked and I haven’t been in them and thought that that was my chance but it didn’t happen.
“It just felt like there was always one bloke in the way but I get to play cricket for a living and I set high standards.
“Finally this opportunity has come along and I’ve really wanted to make the most of it and you can say that, but you’ve still got to go out and perform.
“It was my day today. There were so many things that went my way. You’ve just got to make the most of it and fortunately I did."
Rogers’ ton did not come easily; he spent 30 minutes and faced 19 balls on 96 before sweeping Graeme Swann to the fence.
“I didn't have a care in the world,” he joked. “No, it was a nervous time. I got the score in the last game and thought that was maybe my opportunity and just got to the 90s and the England boys were saying 'If you don't get it now, you may never'. It was just a fantastic moment to finally get it.”
His celebration, or lack thereof, illustrated the intensity of his nerves as the clearly relieved veteran – who has struck 60 first-class centuries and 20,000 runs during his career – let the moment sink in.
Asked whether such a ton means more due to his advancing years, he replied: “I think so.
“I can't talk for the younger blokes but, after all this time, you just don't think that this opportunity is going to come up.
“I wanted to believe I was good enough but never knew. To get a hundred that's something that no one can take away from me, and I can tell my grandchildren about it now...if I have any.”
The century was all the more sweet for Rogers given he felt at one of his lowest points earlier in the series.
Following a crushing loss at Lord’s that moved England 2-0 ahead in the series, he spent a period reflecting – which has certainly proved beneficial.
He responded with a brisk 81 at Emirates Old Trafford and has now got another significant monkey off his back.
He admitted: “It was emotional out there, that's for sure.
“And it has been. Initially to get picked for Australia was amazing, but the nerves and the things that go with it...the Lord's Test match, that was as low as I've been for a while, hearing the criticism coming in and feeling like you've let down your country.
“That hurts. To play well in the last Test and to back it up in this one means a lot to me.”
That Rogers overcame an inspired Stuart Broad, who claimed 4-48, made his effort all the more impressive.
It is true also that few in England – where Rogers has prospered on the county circuit – would begrudge him today’s moment.
Broad said: “I think it is tough for an Englishman to feel pleased for an Aussie scoring a hundred in an Ashes Test, especially when you are bowling against him.
“But there's no doubt he's been a great servant to Australian cricket and to English cricket.”
It appeared Broad was putting England, who lost their final wicket in the day’s second over to be dismissed for 238, firmly in command when ousting David Warner, Usman Khawaja and Michael Clarke to leave Australia 49 for three.
However, Rogers found the perfect riposte as, well supported by Shane Watson’s 68, he took Australia to 222 for five - just 16 runs behind England's score - at the close.
That position makes tomorrow crucial, particularly for England.
“Every day you get in the car in the morning, it’s a big day in the Ashes series, but tomorrow is a very big day for us,” admitted Broad.