Great memories for Langer
Win lose or draw, Australia’s Justin Langer will remember the 2005 Ashes series as simply the best in his long Test career.
Despite winning the opening match the tourists suffered defeats at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge and in between were one wicket away from losing at Old Trafford.
However, bar the opening encounter the matches have been incredibly close with some nail-biting finishes and that is what Langer will remember as the final clash at The Oval approaches.
“If we were to lose this series 3-1 - the worst-case scenario - I will still look back on this as the best series I’ve ever played in,” insisted the left-hander.
“I’ve loved this Test series more than any. I would play it again and again and again over any of the series we’ve played over the last few years.
“It’s a great contest and when you’re out there it’s like you’re in the prime of your life and that is sensational.
“Some of the guys are enjoying this and some aren’t because the results aren’t quite there but we’ll be better for it, individually and as a team, no doubt about that.
“For me it’s a buzz to be in this situation.”
Langer’s last Test appearance at The Oval resulted in a visit to hospital for a brain scan after he was struck on the head by a bouncer from Andy Caddick.
But he had already revived his international career by scoring 102 not out in a total of 641 for four declared as Australia triumphed by an innings and 25 runs in the final match of their triumphant 2001 series.
“If it’s a hundred and I retire hurt again I would take that any day of the week,” said the 34-year-old.
With England requiring only a draw to regain the Ashes it makes the task facing Australia a lot different this time around.
Four years ago they had already wrapped up the series by the time they reached The Oval and Langer, replaced as first choice by Michael Slater, believed his selection was little more than a farewell present from the selectors.
History has proved otherwise but he recalled: “There were certainly different circumstances then and I thought the selectors were just giving me a token gesture - thanks for a good career for Australia.
“I didn’t have much pressure on me but this time there’s a lot more to play for and I hope the result is exactly the same, personally and collectively.
“We’re definitely the underdogs. We’re 2-1 down and England have played arguably the better cricket throughout the summer so we’re the Australian underdogs and we’re quite enjoying it.
“It’s going to be a big Test match and from a personal point of view I can’t wait. It’s been a brilliant series so far, the toughest I’ve played in since my first few Test matches as a youngster against the West Indies but it’s a series I’ll always remember.”
Langer, who took advantage of some easy batting practice as his side racked up 560 runs in a day against Essex at Chelmsford on Sunday, insists Australia’s once all-conquering team are approaching their biggest examination of recent years in a positive frame of mind.
“Experience tells you that it’s the only way to play, regardless of the circumstances,” he said.
“In the second innings of the last Test match I felt I was smiling again. I’m playing my best when I’m smiling and I’m loose and I’m relaxed.
“I’ve learned so much from that innings at The Oval four years ago and would hope to play that way come Thursday.
“We’ve had to work hard - and people have to respect that England are making us work very hard - but we are looking to score runs.
“Experience tells us that all top sportsmen do it with a smile on their face, or certainly a smile and a relaxed demeanour inside, and I’d be very surprised again if we don’t draw on that in the Test match.
“We can talk about attitude but we have to execute our skills if we do that well, with the experience and statistics in our dressing room, we’ll beat anyone in the world.
“We know we’re under pressure and that’s the reality but from the first session we have to hope that, whether we’re batting or bowling, we’ll be a far more skilful side and a tougher side than we’ve shown on this series so far.”
The presence of Glenn McGrath will have a huge bearing on whether Australia manage that but Langer was giving nothing away about the inspirational paceman’s state of health.
“We’re all waiting with bated breath. He’s such a champion player and champions usually get up for these contests. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play but I don’t know.
“You’ll have to ask somebody else but you can’t ask him because he’ll tell you he’s 100% fit to play.”