England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 3rd day September 10, 2005

Langer's last-Test heroics

Justin Langer maintains his superb record in the final Test of a series, while Matthew Hayden finally gets his form back

Throughout this series, Justin Langer had looked the most likely Australian batsman to get a big score, but before his hundred in the last Test at The Oval, he'd failed to make his starts count: in eight previous innings, he'd passed 25 six times, but only twice did he carry on to a half-century. He set that record straight here, with his 22nd Test century - sixth in the all-time list for Australia. In the process, he also became the eighth Australian to get to the 7000 mark, passing Don Bradman's tally of 6996.

A feature of his innings was his positive attitude, reflected in his scoring rate of 4.3 runs per over, a whole run more than it had been in the first four Tests. He was also far more productive off the back foot, a reflection of the true nature of the pitch at The Oval.

Langer's century also kept in tact his superb record in the last Test of a series - 12 of his 22 hundreds have come in the final match. Many of them have been in dead rubbers, but this one will be invaluable if Australia can go on and win the Test.

Langer's last-Test hundreds
Opposition Score Venue and year Result
West Indies 127 Antigua, 1998-99 Aus won by 176 runs
Pakistan 144 Perth, 1999-2000 Aus won by inn. and 20 runs
India 223 Sydney, 1999-2000 Aus won by an inn. and 141 runs
New Zealand 122* Hamilton, 1999-2000 Aus won by 6 wkts
England 102* The Oval, 2001 Aus won by an inn. and 25 runs
South Africa 126 Sydney, 2001-02 Aus won by 10 wkts
West Indies 111 Antigua, 2002-03 Aus lost by 3 wkts,/a>
India 117 Sydney, 2003-04 Draw
Sri Lanka 166 Colombo, 2003-04 Aus won by 121 runs
Sri Lanka 162 Cairns, 2004 Draw
New Zealand 215 Adelaide, 2004-05 Aus won by 213 runs
England 105 The Oval, 2005 ?

Meanwhile, his opening partner had been in the throes of a horrible run, but came out of it with grit and poise. Matthew Hayden's unbeaten 110 has so far taken 250 balls, making this the slowest of his 21 hundred-plus scores so far. While it's been a slow innings, Hayden certainly hasn't struggled out in the middle, achieving an in-control factor of 84%. It was a significant improvement on the corresponding figure of 76.7% in the first four Tests.

Five of Hayden's slowest 100s
Opposition Score/ balls Runs per 100 balls Venue and year
England 110* (250) 44.00 The Oval, 2005
Pakistan 119 (255) 46.67 Sharjah, 2002-03
New Zealand 105 (198) 53.03 Sydney, 2001-02
West Indies 125 (226) 55.31 Adelaide, 1996-97
West Indies 100* (180) 55.56 Port-of-Spain, 2003

Hayden's 21st century came in only his 72nd Test, a rate of 3.4 matches per hundred. Among Australians with at least 15 Test tons, he's in second place, behind only Don Bradman (29 in 55). Langer, meanwhile, is in sixth place, after Greg Chappell, Neil Harvey and Ricky Ponting.

S Rajesh is assistant editor of Cricinfo