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Lehmann picks Watson, Rogers as openers for Ashes

July 1, 2013

WORCESTER, England (AP) — Nearly five-and-a-half years after his first and only test appearance, Chris Rogers was handed the chance to revive his international career on Monday when he was made one of Australia’s opening batsmen for the first Ashes test next week.

New Australia coach Darren Lehmann said Rogers and Shane Watson will lead from the front at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, denting David Warner’s hopes of an immediate return to the team following his suspension for punching England batsman Joe Root in a bar-room incident last month.

It completed a transformation in fortunes for the 35-year-old Rogers, whose only taste of international cricket came against India in Perth in January 2008 after an injury to Matthew Hayden. He made 4 and 15 and was never asked back, soon losing his Cricket Australia contract too.

However, he has plundered runs in domestic cricket for Victoria and Western Australia and has good experience of English conditions, having played county cricket for Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and, most recently, Middlesex.

“I’m looking forward to it and if I do well I can be particularly satisfied,” said the left-handed Rogers, who has 790 runs in 15 innings for Middlesex this season at an average of nearly 66. “I have nothing to lose.”

Watson’s 94-ball 90 in a tour match against Somerset last week looks to have swayed Lehmann, who has called time — for now at least — on the opening partnership of Ed Cowan and Warner that Australia has relied on for the past 18 months.

Warner’s place was always in jeopardy after he was fined and suspended for swinging at Root in a late-night incident after a Champions Trophy match between the two Ashes foes in Birmingham.

His ban expires in time for him to be available for the first test, starting on July 10, but he would have gone into the match with no form or match sharpness — a major risk for an Australian batting lineup that has appeared shaky so far this tour.

Cowan and Warner could yet bat further down the order, with Lehmann only confirming the names of his openers for the first test.

“There’s not many (question marks) now, we’re pretty comfortable with it,” Lehmann said. “We’re pretty close. It’s one or two (places) and we’ll work those out over the next four or five days.”

Australia plays Worcestershire in a final tour match, starting on Tuesday, before the first of five Ashes tests.

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