Having played alongside Test legends such as Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting and Glenn McGrath for the majority of his career, not to mention opening the batting with the belligerent Matthew Hayden, it’s perhaps not surprising that Justin Langer is often overlooked when it comes to discussing the best players of his generation.

Alex Miller pens down one of the earliest tales of Justin Langer showing great commitment and a relentless will to win, the traits that helped him become one of the mainstays of Australia’s dominant Test side in early 2000s.

However, what the gnarled Western Australian lacked in glamour he made up for with a never-say-die attitude and relentless will to win; attributes that he displayed in abundance during his three seasons with Middlesex from 1998 to 2000.

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Langer scored his first English domestic century in a stunning knock of 233 not out against Somerset at Lord’s and brought a renewed intensity to the dressing room. The Perth-born left-hander demanded complete focus from his teammates, including the altogether more laid-back and mercurial Phil Tufnell.

In his autobiography What Now? Tufnell reveals his admiration for Langer and recounts a story that changed the players’ catering arrangements at Lord’s to this day.

“We were on the sharp end of a beating, having been bowled out for single figures and then allowing the opposition to saunter to 300-2 at the close,” writes Tufnell. “As tea’s called, while most of the players are slowly trudging off absolutely pissed off, a couple of the younger lads are already sprinting their way up the pavilion steps, laughing and shoving one another out of the way.”

The youngsters, it transpired, were rushing to get a first taste of the sumptuous cream cakes routinely delivered to the home dressing room during the tea break.

[caption id=”attachment_142469″ align=”alignnone” width=”800″] Justin Langer in action against Glamorgan at Lord’s in June 1998[/caption]

“Justin walked over, picked up the entire tray of cream cakes and threw them against the wall,” Tufnell recalls. “You’re not going to win f***ing anything eating cream cakes. From now on, we’re not having f***ing cream cakes for tea.”

Despite finishing second-bottom of the County Championship in his debut season, Langer struck over 1,000 runs in his first eight matches and came second only to John Crawley in the end of season runs tally, finishing with 1,448 at an average of 62.95, including four centuries.

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One of those tons – a masterful 166 – was scored in a record-breaking first-wicket partnership with local legend Mike Gatting against Essex at Southgate, where the pair put on 372. His impact on the club itself was palpable and he became an instant hit with the members.

Langer saved possibly his best knock for the county until his final innings, against Glamorgan at Sophia Gardens. At 40-4, and with the threat of the Championship wooden spoon hanging over Middlesex, he dug in for seven-and-a-half hours while accumulating 213 not out, and in doing so almost single-handedly earned his side enough bonus points to finish above bottom-placed Sussex.

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Langer had been in and out of the Australian Test side since his debut in 1993 and it was during his spell with Middlesex that he really nailed down his place, initially at No.3 before moving up the order to replace Michael Slater, where he formed a prolific opening partnership with Hayden.

Langer was never dropped from the Australian side again, becoming a key component in one of the greatest ever Test sides.

First published in July 2017