Friday, 7 November 2008

Form Crucial Leading into the Ashes

Former Australia opener Justin Langer, who's opening partnership with Matthew Hayden in test matches was one of the most successful of all time, believes the lead-up to next summer's Ashes will prove crucial to the eventual outcome of the series.

The statistics definitely back Langer up; England entered the 2005 Ashes contest on the back of five consecutive Test series victories and went on to clinch the series 2-1, but their form ahead of the 2006-7 series - which Australia won 5-0 - was patchy at best.

"I think it's going to be a really good contest - I think the next few months are going to be significant as to who wins the Ashes," said Langer.

"In 2005 England had gained some great confidence and they'd formulated a really strong team, a core of players and they came into it really confident.

"In the Lord's Test match in 2005 (Steve) Harmison ran in to bowl to me and the first ball flew through to the wicketkeeper, Geraint Jones took it and England were all over us like bees to honey.

"It was unbelievable the body language, the attitude - they were really up for it. The next ball hit me on the elbow and I thought, 'We're in for a fight here' and although we won the first Test, that was the attitude and feeling throughout the whole series.

"Last time (in 2006-7) Harmison ran in to bowl the first ball and it went to second slip.

"The most significant thing was not that it went to second slip but that I was looking round for a fight because we were up for this more than ever before.

"But the England players' body language, everything, was so different.

"If they gain confidence or Australia gain confidence leading into the Ashes, that'll be a telling part as to how the series goes."

Langer himself announced on 1 January 2007 that he would retire on completion of the 5th Ashes test in Sydney. A fitting end to have successfully regained the ashes after what must have been a bitter loss in the 2005 series.