Langer is upbeat despite bad blow

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The Independent Online

Justin Langer was bounced out of Australia's first innings yesterday, just after reaching a fine hundred, but he promised that he will bounce back today. The blow he took to the side of his helmet left him temporarily hors de combat, but he was upbeat after bad light had driven both sides off prematurely.

"I've been hit on the head more times than most," he said, "but this was a harder thud than any I have had before. It was as if Lennox Lewis had whacked me. I must have a rock-like skull. It caught me on my left ear and I have been told to expect a cauliflower ear as a result."

Certainly his helmet spared Langer a more serious injury, and therein lies a tale. "I was asked by some South Australian climbers for some memorabilia to take up Mount Everest. They couldn't have my Baggy Green, so I gave them the helmet, with a different grille, and they all signed it.

"Only one of them did not make it to the summit. He died 100 metres short, but he had signed the helmet: 'To Justin, have a great Ashes tour'."

Langer added: "I had begun to wonder if it was a bad omen after being left out of the first four Tests, but after today maybe it wasn't."

He certainly went out in a positive frame of mind.

"A lot of people had thought my Test career was over, and judging by some of the telephone calls I received this morning you would have thought I was on death row. I never thought my career was finished. I just kept working hard and from the moment Steve Waugh told me I was in the team I have been like a kid waiting for Christmas.

"Walking out to bat here has been, without question, one of the highlights of my career. I have had the time of my life. I was relaxed out there. But I have learned from this experience. I will never again take playing for Australia for granted. And from now on I am going to have fun and enjoy my cricket."

As for the man he replaced, Michael Slater, Langer said: "We had a long chat on Wednesday. I have been there and I know what he is going through. But he will come back. Right now Slats just needs a lot of love and he will get plenty of that within the team."

Slater, who separated from his wife for a while recently (although they are now reconciled) may get even more than that after Trevor Hohns, Australia's chairman of selectors, announced on ABC Radio in Australia yesterday: "He [Slater] will need to be counselled by people within the team environment and possibly myself on those issues, but on the other issues I'm sure something will be put in place to help him along the way there."

Slater, who was dropped in 1996 and took 18 months to fight his way back into the Test team, adopted a positive attitude: "It is almost like I can start again. I am going to sit down, write down my goals and paint a picture of where I want to be in a year's time. When I come back I'll be a better player and a better person."

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