Langer admits Headingley Test left Australia feeling like Ashes were ‘stolen’
Justin Langer says Ben Stokes’ audacious match-winning efforts at Headingley left Australia feeling like the Ashes were “stolen”.
The head coach had earlier told Australian media that England’s incredible one-wicket win, a record chase of 359 made possible by Stokes’ unbeaten 135, had left him “physically sick” and unsure whether to “cry my eyes out or smash my hotel room”.
Had Stokes fallen short, Australia would have retained the urn with two games to spare, but instead hostilities resume at Emirates Old Trafford on Wednesday at 1-1 and with everything to play for.
Describing his current emotions after his side’s first training session in Manchester, Langer cited a story from one of sport’s all-time greats by way of illustration.
“Think about Muhammad Ali getting his bike stolen (as a child). He got his bike stolen and that was the fire he needed to become the greatest boxer of all time,” said Langer.
“We felt a bit like we got the Ashes stolen the other day. They won that Test match, so we felt a bit like it’d been stolen from us. Now we’ve got to work out what we’re going to do, and use that as fire. We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves and let it slip.
“The great players and great teams – in business and life – they have their ups and downs but they always fight back from it. You wouldn’t see one champion player, one champion team, one champion business that hasn’t done that.”
Australia will make one change to their side for certain, with star batsman Steve Smith back after the concussion caused by a 92mph Jofra Archer bouncer ruled him out in Leeds.
With his stand-in, Marnus Labuschagne, impressing so far, Smith could replace opener Marcus Harris, forcing Usman Khawaja up a place to open.
There are also decisions to be made in the bowling attack, with Mitchell Starc straining at the leash for his first outing of the series following his leading role at the World Cup. James Pattinson is the man most likely to make way.
As for Smith, Langer expects him to prove his class under the inevitable barrage of bouncers that come his way.
“When you get hit, it’s always a little voice on your shoulder. You’ve got to have a good strategy and he works the game out better than anyone I’ve ever met in my life,” he said.
“He would’ve thought long and hard about it. If anyone’s going to get over any little demons it’ll be Steven .
“He’s faced lots of short-pitched bowling in his life. A lot of it will be how he organises his mind and as I’ve said, he organises it better than anybody.”