Langer's amazing end |
Australian opener Justin Langer said a tearful farewell to Test cricket Friday after a seesawing career in which he was repeatedly dropped by selectors then earned redemption to retire on his own terms.
The 36-year-old scored 7,696 runs in 105 Tests at an average of 45.27 runs, giving him the 20th highest Test aggregate in Test cricket and the sixth highest for an Australian.
The statistics show Langer scored more Test runs than legends such as Colin Cowdrey, Gordon Greenidge, Mark Taylor and Clive Lloyd, yet he often struggled to retain a spot in the Australian team.
It was frustrating for Langer, whose devotion to his baggy green cap was so great that teammate Glenn McGrath remarked Friday that the batsman would have to find something else to wear to bed in his retirement.
Langer persevered to overcome the early perceptions about his batting and was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2001.
Langer has formed part of Australia's most prolific opening partnership with Matthew Hayden, combining for 5,654 runs at an average of more than 51.
Only the West Indian duo of Greenidge and Desmond Haynes have made more runs (6,482) than Langer and Hayden, but they played together for 13 years while the Australian duo joined forces only in 2001.
In early 2006, Langer was almost forced into premature retirement from cricket when he was hit by a Makhaya Ntini bouncer in Johannesburg and was taken to hospital with concussion. Doctors told him another blow to the head could be fatal.
But he was determined to reclaim the Ashes urn that Australia handed to England in 2005, saying "we're the team that lost the Ashes and we're going to make sure we're the team that gets them back".
He achieved the goal in emphatic fashion Friday, when he and opening partner Matthew Hayden easily reached the total Australia needed to complete a series whitewash against their old foe.
"It was an amazing moment in my life," Langer said. "That's probably the perfect script, to be there when the winning runs are scored with my opening partner, 5-0 up in a Test series."
After the match, Langer stood with his head in his hands crying as the Sydney Cricket Ground applauded him and fellow Test retirees Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.
He admitted emotions had been raging during his final match.
"There's no denying when the national anthem was on and I saw my family up in the box and looked around for the last time before we went out to field, I knew that I was pretty upset," he said.
"It probably affected the way I played the first day. I dropped three catches. That's good. I'd be upset if I wasn't a bit upset about it."