Chris Rogers puts the touring side in the driver’s seat at Chester-le-Street.
Chris Rogers’ maiden Test century took Australia to within sight of a first-innings lead when bad light forced an early close to the second day of the fourth Ashes Test.
Australia were 222 for five at stumps, 16 runs behind England’s first innings 238, with 35-year-old left-handed opener Rogers 101 not out and Brad Haddin unbeaten on 12.
Australia had been in trouble at 76 for four shortly after lunch, thanks mainly to paceman Stuart Broad, who took four wickets for 48 runs in 20 overs.
But a fifth-wicket stand of 129 between Rogers, dropped on 49, and all-rounder Shane Watson, reprieved on five before making 68, kept England, who at 2-0 up with two to play had already retained the Ashes, at bay.
At 35 years and 344 days, Rogers was the second oldest Australian to score a maiden Test century after Arthur Richardson, 37 years and 353 days when he made exactly 100 against England at Leeds in 1926.
South Africa’s Dave Nourse (42 years, 295 days) is the oldest from any country.
And, in a sign of their recent problems, this was the first time in 12 Tests an Australian opener had scored a hundred, the longest sequence since they went 13 Tests without one at the top of the order between 1899 and 1902.
Prior to Rogers’s innings, David Warner’s 119 against South Africa at Adelaide in November 2012 was the last Test century by an Australian opener.
Rogers had waited five years since making his Australia debut in 2008 before playing his second Test at the start of this Ashes series after several years of heavy run-scoring in both Australian and English first-class cricket.
The 35-year-old, who started the season as captain of English county Middlesex, had come close to a Test century with 84 in the drawn third match at Old Trafford and this was the third time he’d passed 50 in the series.
Before lunch, Broad took three wickets, including that of Australia captain and batting lynchpin Michael Clarke.
Broad, making use of the overcast conditions, seamed one back in to clip the top of left-hander Warner’s off-stump.
And 12 for one became 12 for two when Broad had an uncertain Usman Khawaja caught behind for a duck off the bottom edge by wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
The latest controversy involving the Decision Review System this series came when Tony Hill gave Rogers out caught behind off Broad on 20.
Rogers reviewed and the much-criticised Hot Spot element of the DRS indicated he hadn’t hit the ball.
Although the ball hit Rogers’ back pad, Hawk Eye tracking technology said it would have just clipped the bails and the ‘umpire’s call’ verdict meant Rogers was not out lbw either.
But there was no dispute when Clarke, who made a brilliant 187 in Manchester, drove without moving his at a Broad outswinger on six and England captain Alastair Cook held a sharp chance above his head at first slip.
Bresnan would have dismissed Watson for five had he held a sharp left-handed caught and bowled chance.
Rogers was then reprieved in the act of reaching 50 when he nicked Broad only for second slip Graeme Swann to drop a catch that looked as if it would have carried to Cook at first slip.
After Rogers drove off-spinner Swann to reach 96, he was fortunate to see a leading edge off the same bowler fall short of Broad at mid-on.
Meanwhile, Watson’s 22nd Test 50 failed to yield what would have been only his third century when a leg-glance off Broad was well caught by a diving Prior.
Rogers spent 30 minutes on 96, facing 19 balls, all from Swann, without scoring.
However, when he swept Swann for the 13th four of his innings it meant Rogers had completed a century, his 61st in first-class cricket, after more than five hours at the crease before, with no floodlights on the ground, the umpires took the players off shortly before the scheduled close.