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Australia v West Indies, 3rd Test, Adelaide, 2nd day

Langer's predictable comeback

The Verdict by Peter English

November 26, 2005

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Justin Langer fell on 99 in his comeback match after recovering from a cracked rib. © Getty Images
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An afternoon following a morning's world record was never going to hold the intensity. Australia's reunited opening pair attempted to continue the celebration created by Brian Lara's passing of Allan Border's 11,174 runs, but once their almost run-a-ball stand ended the day meandered. The magic moment had happened. It was time to focus on the Test.

Justin Langer had a good reason for tunnel vision in his return from a fractured rib and was in battle mode well before Fidel Edwards brushed near the affected area with a short ball. Michael Hussey had filled in for two Tests and his first-innings Hobart century caused a dramatic reshuffle of Australia's order, putting all the batsmen on notice. Langer was always going to come straight back in, but at 35 you don't enjoy someone impressing in your position, even if he's a long-term team-mate.

The prod worked for Langer, who admitted his nerves as the match began and showed them again only when he was stranded on 99, and he started in a flurry of well-driven, off-side boundaries before settling down for the rewarding graft. It's hard to know which method Langer enjoys more. His attacking play is under-rated - his Test strike-rate is more than half a run higher than Michael Slater's - and his defensive play is an acquired taste. Today he displayed both, racing to his half-century in 59 balls with eight fours, mostly with drives through cover and mid-off, and firming up when Matthew Hayden departed, ending their partnership at 97 runs in 17.3 dramatic overs.

Ricky Ponting turned up with a measured mindset, picking up a hard-earned half-century, and with Langer the pair ground down West Indies in the final session to make the deficit a manageable 176 entering day three. Langer's toil, which resulted in only two boundaries after his fifty, was so assured that a 23rd Test century seemed a formality until he was becalmed for ten balls on 99 and gloved an attempted pull shot to Denesh Ramdin. The team has managed without him during two successful matches but neither the squad nor individual wants him to depart for good.

Australia's change of pace from breakneck to steady was caused by some serious alterations to the West Indian bowling. Corey Collymore was again difficult to score from and Dwayne Bravo, who collected both Hayden and Ponting, backed up their most respected bowler after some early innings profligacy came mainly from Edwards.

West Indies' excitement at seeing Lara's success was quickly replaced by shock as their first three overs went for 27. Both sides resumed in the same manner after lunch and the score reached 50 in the eighth over, with Edwards' first three going for a wasteful 36. Fortunately for the tourists, they regained their composure and offered a better defence of their most impressive total of the series. That achievement was due to Lara, who made only 24 today but deserved all of the attention.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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