Langer returns with century as Australia take control in final Test
Justin Langer made a heroic return to Test cricket making an unbeaten century on his first appearance for Australia in England before he was felled by a ball from Andrew Caddick and left the field, dazed and unsteady.
He completed his century a few balls earlier after playing courageously for over four hours but he attempted to hook a 84.2 mph ball from Caddick and like all his previous attempts, the shot did not come off and the ball thudded into the side of his helmet, causing him to crumple to the ground.
He wobbled off, aided by the Australia physio Erroll Alcott and a doctor who had been summoned to the crease to attend to a three inch gash above his ear, and received a standing ovation from a capacity crowd before being taken off to hospital for a precautionary scan.
It had been a brave innings from the outset. He was left out of the First npower Ashes Test at the start of the summer after showing average form since arriving on tour and failed to regain his place until Michael Slater, to everyone's surprise, was dropped after the Headingley Test.
Normally a number three batsman, he opened with Matthew Hayden and despite a quiet start, when he looked out of touch and tentative in his shot selection, he stayed put, unwilling to take risks or be hurried.
By the time he lost his partner, they had formed the highest opening stand of the summer. The broad shouldered Hayden was eventually caught at midwicket off Phil Tufnell's bowling for 68, having used every ounce of his formidable power to blast nine boundaries.
But at tea, Australia were starting to motor having gathered 203 runs in two sessions on a flat pitch that had always looked to favour the batsmen even when there was early cloud cover combined with high degree humidity. There was little that Nasser Hussain could do and with the exception of Darren Gough, who bowled without conviction, his bowlers stuck to their plan.
But there were no wickets and apart from a couple of half chances in the morning when Usman Afzaal tried to run out Hayden with a lightning fast return from short leg and, when the ball bounced in front of Mark Butcher from the blade of Langer, there were no close calls either.
Langer made 102 before he was struck on the head and his departure brought together Ponting and Mark Waugh, who despatched Gough for two consecutive fours, one gloriously to the cover boundary and the next even more elegantly to the square leg rope.
The pair added 56 in 12 overs before Ponting was brilliantly caught by Mike Atherton at first slip for 62. It handed Jimmy Ormond his first wicket in Test cricket and it was well deserved after he had showed discipline and intelligence throughout his 18 overs, and few signs of first Test nerves.
When Ponting left, the score was 292 for two and Waugh, accompanied by his brother Steve who made a startling recovery from injury to take his place in what could his last Test match in England, had taken the Australian total to 324 for two, with the skipper unbeaten on 12 and Mark just two away from his half-century.
At 6.30pm, with eight overs of the day remaining, bad light took the players off the field. It was the third interruption of the day - around 40 minutes was earlier lost due to light drizzle but this time, with three lights on the board, the crowd started to disperse knowing that in the murky gloom, any more play looked distinctly unlikely.