Langer ruled out of first Test
With the words "Huss, you're in" Justin Langer ruled himself out of the first Test and gave Michael Hussey the opportunity he's been waiting for since he was five. Langer succumbed to a fractured rib despite batting in the nets today and Australia will have a new opening combination in a Test for the first time since August 2001 against West Indies on Thursday.
Hussey was called into the squad on Monday but felt his opportunity was limited when he watched Langer train without emotion this morning. When Langer walked across after a meeting with Trevor Hohns, John Buchanan and Errol Alcott, Hussey knew he would be losing the tag of the country's most unlucky batsman and become its 393rd Test player.
"I never lost hope," said Hussey, who in plundering 15,313 first-class runs at 52.80 holds the record as the most prolific Australian scorer before winning a Test cap. "I really feel like I had to earn it and that's what Test cricket in Australia is about. I've been through heaps, but loved every minute along the way. All the hard work has been worth it."
Langer, who was hit while batting for Western Australia in an ING Cup match on Saturday, has played 53 consecutive Tests since replacing Michael Slater at The Oval four years ago and was disappointed to break his record-breaking partnership with Matthew Hayden. He knew the streak was in trouble on Monday but completed a full session before scratching himself.
"It's very painful and it feels like I've got barbed wire in my chest every time I run," he said. "I've never had a break before but Errol [the physiotherapist] said give it seven days and it should be back to normal."
Langer has gained a reputation as one of the game's ironmen with his high pain tolerance, but he was worried he would let himself down if he took the field. "After England we promised as a group we would increase our intensity and play like a great team," he said. "I don't think I can play like a great player over the next five days."
Hayden and Hussey is another left-handed partnership with a ring to it and Langer said his state team-mate was his preferred replacement because of his extreme desire to play for Australia. "He's as hungry as anyone I've met and as long as he watches the ball and smiles he'll make plenty of runs," Langer said. "He has huge respect in the team and huge respect from Haydos - I'm sure they'll be a great partnership for this one Test."
Hussey said receiving the news was "a bit surreal" and it was "weird" taking the place of Langer. "We've been through a lot together in Western Australia," he said. "I've been dreaming about this since I was a little kid. Hopefully it will sink in when I get my baggy green."