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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 August 2005, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Justin Langer column (2nd Test)
J Langer
By Justin Langer
Australian Test batsman

DAY FOUR

From my shoes, Sunday's result wasn't ideal of course, but in the bigger scheme of things it is one of the best things that has happened in international cricket for a long time.

For some, days like that remain etched in their minds for a lifetime. Great sporting events excite people and if today didn't entertain the masses and promote the game of cricket in a positive light then nothing will.

Stephen Harmison (right) appeals for the victory-clinching wicket of Mike Kasprovicz (left)
It is only a couple of hours since Stephen Harmison's dismissal of Michael Kasprowicz and yet I have already had a number of people in England and at home in Australia describing how this was one of the best sporting moments and therefore memories of their lives.

This is fantastic for the game of cricket and for the interest in the rest of this Ashes series.

Last night I described how we would need a touch of brilliance and some luck if we were to pull off an unlikely victory.

What I failed to mention is that we would also need plenty of courage and good old fashioned grit and concentration if we were to get over the line.

While there was some brilliance and some luck, it was the courage, grit and character of our tail-enders to face up to England's fast bowling attack and chip away at the total that gave us a chance to get so close.

In our changing rooms, Jason Gillespie was ticking off every run on the front cover of one of the newspapers, while others were trying to remain calm and collected, or reverting to nervous, idle chit chat in a bid to will us through.

Whatever the demeanour of every one of my team mates, you can be sure that every heart was pumping at a greater-than-usual rate of knots.

When we arrived at the ground it would be fair to say we didn't give ourselves much chance of winning.

But as every run was checked off Jason's scorecard the atmosphere was changing from scepticism to hope and, eventually, to belief that we could actually steal this second Test from under England's noses.

Whichever team is able to best grasp the momentum of today's proceedings will go into Thursday's third Test as the favourites
While this didn't happen, winning would have been one of the biggest escape acts of my career.

Having been outplayed on the first two days and yesterday afternoon we probably didn't deserve to win this match. This may sound harsh, but I believe it is fair.

Experience tells us that few matches are won on the back of one or two good sessions of play. To win a Test match most teams have to win and outplay the opposition for extended periods of time.

In this Test we weren't able to achieve this and therefore we lost, even if it was by the smallest of margins.

While we have learned a lot from this Test match it will be important for us to put these lessons into practice for the remainder of the series.

Whichever team is able to best grasp the momentum of today's proceedings will go into Thursday's third Test as the favourites.

Whatever way it goes, if the first two Tests are anything to go by then anyone who loves their cricket is in for a feast of entertainment for the next five weeks.

DAY THREE

A perfectly-delivered slower ball in the last over of the day has made Sunday's task of winning this second Test as tough an assignment as we have known for a very long time.

Andrew Flintoff

With young gun Michael Clarke at the crease we were still in with an outside chance of winning.

But thanks to Steve Harmison, we will now have to rely on a touch of brilliance, and indeed luck, if Shane Warne, Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz are to get us over the line here at Edgbaston.

Symbolic of what has already been an incredibly entertaining Test series, today was no different.

It is almost as though the series is being played in fast forward.

There has been so much going on, that the series has been more like a sequence of one-day internationals than a couple of Test matches between the biggest rivals of our time.

Facing him [Flintoff] is hard work because he hits the pitch so hard
After a wake-up call in the first two days we knew we had to lift our game today to get back into the contest.

Thanks to an inspired spell by Lee and an incredible performance by Warne, we were able to get ourselves back into a position of strength.

At nine wickets down, England were only 220 runs in front of us and the game was evenly poised.

Unfortunately for us, "Freddie" Flintoff decided to have a day out and instead of chasing just over 200, we were faced with the task of needing 280 for victory.

Initially this assignment seemed achievable, until Flintoff again decided to show off his all-round talents by taking decisive wickets at the right times.

There is no doubt he is a world-class all-rounder who showed why he is so widely respected and admired by the masses, as well as his peers.

Facing him is hard work because he hits the pitch so hard, allowing him to gain the advantage of any inconsistent pace or bounce from the natural elements of the turf surface.

He is a class act and if England are to even the series, I am certain they will recognise their all-rounder as one of the keys to their success here in Birmingham.

DAY TWO

For the second consecutive day England showed they really mean business in this series.

Justin Langer takes evasive action against Steve Harmison
And, for the second time in as many matches, Steve Harmison woke me up with another body blow; this time it was a crack to the back of my helmet on the third ball of the morning.

At Lord's he hit me on the right elbow on the second ball; today his radar settled a little higher up my body and he settled for my head instead.

This type of aggression certainly gives you a quick reminder that you are in a contest with one of the world's most dangerous bowlers, but as silly as it may sound it can often do players like me a favour rather than anything else.

When you first walk out in a Test match, it is crucial to be sharp and ready to watch the ball like a hawk.

A body blow suggests that you may not be as sharp as you need to be to survive against this type of bowling, and therefore it gives you a subtle reminder to get your feet dancing and keep your eyes wide open.

Ashley Giles' comeback after a tough lead up to this game was outstanding
A highlight of England's success over the last 18 months has been their ability to bowl aggressively, while setting relatively defensive fields.

This is a tactic we have employed in sub-continent conditions, where the pitches are flat and the outfields run like grease-lightning.

To their credit, all of the England bowlers hit the pitch very hard all day, making run scoring more difficult than we would have liked.

Initially Harmison, Flintoff, Jones and Hoggard bowled aggressively with the new ball, while later on in the afternoon they got the ball to reverse swing.

As has been the trend, Ashley Giles bowled cagily from the other end, allowing his fast men to bowl short, sharp spells.

His comeback after a tough lead up to this game was outstanding.

For years there has been a growing perception this Australian team needs a real challenge.

Winning this Test from here is certainly going to be that, but it is this hugely motivating challenge that we hope will bring out the best of us over the next few days.

DAY ONE

About the only positive to come out of proceedings was the rain that started to fall as we walked out to face Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard for 15 minutes before stumps.

Glenn McGrath
As an opening batsman, there is little fun in having to bat just before stumps, when the ball is hard and shiny and the opposition bowlers have no reason whatsoever to hold back from their most aggressive best.

After what had been quite a horrid day, the prospect of facing Harmison in the gloomy, fading light was hardly the most desirable result for your correspondent.

Before a ball had been bowled, the karma of this first day at Edgbaston suggested we were potentially in for a tough day.

Glenn McGrath's freak accident was simply that. Walking backwards from a group of us, he stepped on a cricket ball and fell badly on his ankle.

Time will tell how seriously his ankle has been damaged, but the very fact he has even missed this Test match is a hammer blow for Glenn and, of course, the team.

England played very well and we were looser than usual with the ball
After losing the toss and being sent into bat, England started this second Test like they did the first.

This time they had bats in their hands, but still they showed they really mean business in this series.

Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss had us on the back foot from the start, and considering England finished with over 400 in the day, it would be fair they have taken the honours on day one.

In hindsight, there may be a few raised eyebrows about sending England in to bat, but history and all other indications on this pitch suggested Ricky's choice should have been the correct one.

To their credit, England played very well and we were looser than usual with the ball.

Sure, the injury to Glenn McGrath was a loss. But now as I sit back in my hotel room I, along with all of my team-mates, am looking forward to making amends tomorrow.

Rarely do we have two poor days in a row and we will be hopeful this trend continues on day two.




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