The Ashes 2005 July 26, 2005

England batsmen in 'coffins' - Langer


Steve Harmison makes Justin Langer wince in the first over at Lord's © Getty Images

Justin Langer believes the stranglehold established by Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne during the first Test will be too strong for England to break in the remainder of the series. Langer said the batsmen played as if they were "in a coffin" because negotiating the pair was claustrophobic.

"I look at the times when I've faced Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh in tandem," Langer said. "There is immense pressure - and the immense pressure comes from not being able to score runs. This might sound strange, but when you are in one of those MRI [scanning] machines, it feels like you are in a coffin and you can get claustrophobic and that's what I think happens when you face the best bowlers in the world."

Langer said when the batsmen aren't scoring in international games it brings the greatest pressure. "It's not the pace of the bowlers you are facing or the physical side of things," he said. "Glenn McGrath is not particularly fast and Shane Warne is not going to physically hurt you, but you just can't score."

During Australia's crushing 239-run victory, which preserved their 71-year-old unbeaten Test record at Lord's, McGrath, the Man of the Match, returned overall figures of 9 for 82, including his 500th wicket. However, there was a bright spot for England with the performance of Steve Harmison, who took 5 for 43 in the first innings and hit each of Australia's top three.

"I felt as much pressure in that first session as when I played my first Test against one of the great West Indian attacks," Langer said. "In 1993, for my first Test against Ambrose, Walsh, Bishop etc, I felt so out of my depth because of the pressure they were putting on. I felt there was a similar degree of pressure being put on us by Harmison and [Andrew] Flintoff in that first session on Thursday."

Langer questioned whether the pair could maintain that form over the duration of a five-Test series. "We have shown over a long time that we can sustain pressure because we have got a lot of great players who know how to do that," Langer said. "Can England reproduce that? I'd be surprised if they lose their enthusiasm after one Test. There's no reason why you can't do it every time. But whether they have the hunger and steel to do that, only time will tell."