Langer joins SCG retirement list

Justin Langer will retire after the Sydney Test to become the fourth senior Australia player to quit in less than a month. Langer will join Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath at the SCG farewell against England, which comes three matches after Damien Martyn's surprise exit.

Langer considered ending his career after the tour of South Africa in April but, like Warne, he decided reclaiming the Ashes was his highest priority. "I had this burning ambition to beat England again," he said at the announcement at the SCG.

Playing in front of an almost full house at Melbourne and being part of one of the great comeback victories at Adelaide made Langer realise he was ready to step down. "I just wonder how it can get better than that?" he said. "Everyone keeps saying 'you'll know when it's time'. Well, at one o'clock two days ago I knew it was time - it just came to me.

"There hasn't been a waking moment for the last 20 years where I haven't thought about playing Test cricket and wearing the baggy green cap, so this is a tough moment. There hasn't been a moment where Test cricket hasn't been on my mind."

Langer said he was fortunate to have played in an incredible team. "It's been a privilege with Shane and Glenn and Adam Gilchrist, the greatest wicketkeeper of all time, and Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting, who is the greatest batsman this country has produced after Bradman," he said. "There's no doubt the thing I'll miss most about cricket is what I'll experience hopefully tomorrow morning ... walking out with my big mate Haydos.

"We've formed a great partnership and, like Ricky and Tugga [Steve Waugh], he's going to be a friend for life and it's going to be hard in five days' time not walking out with him in a Test match."

Langer's decision will bring an end to one of the most successful opening partnerships in history. Langer and Hayden have combined forces at the top of the order in 63 Tests for an average of 51.62 runs an innings. Throughout the five-year friendship they have split 5575 runs, which is second only to Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes.

The pair came together in the final Test of the 2001 Ashes after Michael Slater was dropped for the last time. Before then Langer had established himself as Australia's Test No. 3 until Ponting grabbed the position at the start of the tour of England. Langer was omitted but was handed a reprieve in the final Test and made the most of his chance, scoring 102 and putting together 158 with Hayden. It was the first of 14 century partnerships with Hayden and transformed Langer's career.

Before The Oval Langer averaged 39.04, but since then he has increased the mark by ten runs an innings and begins his final game with a mean of 45.26. One of his greatest strengths was his ability to turn a start into a huge score and he registeredthree double-centuries, behind only Don Bradman, Ricky Ponting and Greg Chappell on the Australian list. He is seventh on the table of Australian century-makers with 23 and his highest score came against England in the previous home series when he compiled 250 at the MCG.

In Langer's first Test phase he managed only five Tests, with his debut coming in the one-run loss to West Indies at Adelaide in 1992-93. Langer, then 22, suffered the first of many international blows to his head when an Ian Bishop bouncer crashed into his helmet as he picked up 54 in the second innings.

He was dropped for the 1993 Ashes tour and replaced by Slater and it was not until the 1998-99 tour of Pakistan that he established himself in the team, this time at the expense of Greg Blewett. One of his greatest moments came at Hobart in 1999-2000 when in a Man-of-the-Match performance Langer made 127 and combined with Adam Gilchrist for a 238-run sixth-wicket partnership to earn Australia victory chasing 369 in the fourth innings against Pakistan.

Langer earned a Wisden Cricketer of the Year award in 2001 and in early 2006 became the tenth man and first Western Australian to play 100 Tests for Australia. He can't really remember the occasion due to a Makhaya Ntini bouncer that gave him concussion and briefly threatened his career.

Langer hopes to continue playing with Somerset in 2007 and with Western Australia next season but he was unable to predict how long he would extend his first-class career. "I can't imagine not playing for the next couple of seasons," Langer said. "There's an amazing challenge at Somerset. They're at the bottom of everything, and I've got a great regard for the coach over there and I'm looking forward to that challenge.

"It would be impossible for me not to play cricket. I love the game and that's why it was so hard to make this decision not to play Test cricket any more, but I love cricket and I'm certainly going to play it for the next eight to ten months and then we'll see what happens after that."