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Monday, 27 August, 2001, 01:19 GMT 02:19 UK
The pressure's on England
BBC Sport Online diarist Justin Langer
Australia's Justin Langer continues his Ashes diary for BBC Sport Online on the fourth day of the fifth and final Test at the Oval.

Sunday 26 August, 2001

England have been under pressure for the majority of the summer, but now, after a dank and gloomy day at the Oval, our battling opponents will be under even more intense pressure on the final day.

As disappointing as it was to be cut five hours short by persistent rain, we have gained a psychological advantage as a result.

One of Mark Taylor's theories when he was captain was that the prime position for a team to be in was when the opposition have no chance of winning the game.

When the chance of triumph is eliminated, the psychological advantage is hugely in your favour.

Shane Warne
Warney will be raring to go after a day of weather watching
This is the position that the English players find themselves in as I write.

After failing to avoid the follow-on target, they are still 169 runs away from making us bat again.

Admittedly the Oval pitch is still a batting-friendly surface, but the pressure is now potentially suffocating for the hosts.

Early wickets, a spinning pitch and four well-rested world-class bowlers have us in a strong position to win this fifth Test and leave English shores with a four-one scoreline under our belts.

The rain delay allowed our weary bowlers to re-charge their batteries and with the reward of a long rest after the final day's efforts, they will be charged up for a final attack on England's batsmen.

We have everything to play for because a final push will result in a Test victory, whereas England only have a draw to play for.

'Athers' is as difficult to remove as a grass stain on your cricket pants
Justin Langer
Psychologically this can haunt England who are equally as tired and drained after a long, hard summer of Ashes cricket.

Seeing the back of Mike Atherton only heightened our chances of a victory.

Sadly for English cricket his departure is likely to be his last as a Test player.

After a long and distinguished career he signalled his beckoning retirement by acknowledging the crowd with a wave of his bat and a bow of his head.

A fantastic competitor and courageous opening batsman, he has been a loyal ambassador in the blue England cap.

Michael Atherton
'Athers' - head bowed and bat raised
From an opposition's point of view we will be happy to see the back of 'Athers' as he is often as difficult to remove as one of the grass stains on your cricket pants.

From an international cricket viewpoint, it is always sad to see the final curtain drawn on a great player.

The loss of Mike Atherton will be a major blow to English cricket.

His experience, skill and courage are assets that need to be passed on to the future generations.

Now we face only one more day in what has been a hard fought summer.

Although there will be 44 tired legs and 22 fatigued minds doing battle at the Oval, the last two miles of our marathon will prove significant to the pride of our two nations.

The Ashes is already won and lost, but the final act of this drama will unfold in six hours on Monday.

Weather permitting of course!

From London


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