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Interviews

The Definitive: Justin Langer

by Wisden Staff 15 minute read

Legendary left-hander Justin Langer speaks to Robin Lett and opens up about the matches that made a great career.

‘BORROWING’ BATS
First hundred | 1983

I first felt the thrill of reaching three figures when I was 13, playing in a Sunday morning game for my local club side. My dad had a bat once used by Kim Hughes, who was my all-time hero, in his study. I always wanted to play with it but he never let me. So that morning I ‘borrowed’ it from his study, put it in my cricket bag and used it to score my first ever hundred. I thought if it’s good enough for Kim Hughes, it’s good enough for me.

THE BREAKTHROUGH
149 | Western Australia v New South Wales, Sheffield Shield Final, 1992

It was the Sheffield Shield Final against a star-studded New South Wales side including the Waugh twins, Michael Bevan, Greg Matthews and Mike Whitney. I was 21, and a late inclusion in the Western Australia side in my debut season of first-class cricket. I was so nervous in the first innings that I didn’t get many but on the way to practice on day three, I wrote off my car listening to Genesis! I think that helped me take my mind off things a little bit. We were 3-3 but myself and Damien Martyn managed to put a partnership together. I finished with 149 and we ended up winning the game.

THE FIRST TEST TON
119 | Pakistan v Australia, Second Test, Peshawar, 1998

I was under pressure in the second Test after getting a duck in the first, so my first Test hundred came as a great relief. It was during this game I got the nickname Arthur Morris. He was a great Australian batsman who used to tell the story of how he got 197 during Don Bradman’s last Test but nobody ever remembered it. During my first Test hundred, Mark Taylor was busy getting 334 not out at the other end, so nobody ever remembers one of the most significant days of my career!

TAMING AMBROSE AND WALSH
127 | West Indies v Australia, Fourth Test, Antigua, 1999

We headed for the Caribbean in 1998 knowing it was going to be another tough trip out there. I had scored that hundred in Peshawar and one against England in Adelaide but I still had little self doubts about whether I was really good enough. Then it all came together in the fourth Test in Antigua. I scored 127 in the second innings and I knew then that I had what it took to play Test cricket. To score a hundred against Ambrose and Walsh in the West Indies was very significant.

WATCH HERE

GROWING BELIEF
127 | Australia v Pakistan, Second Test, Hobart, 1999

It was a fairly low-scoring first innings. I’d got to 50 and had been given out against Saqlain caught bat-pad when I was nowhere near it, which was very disappointing. We ended up being set about 370 to win. We were 126-5 when Adam Gilchrist and I came together. We put on a big partnership and won the game and I ended up getting 127. It was particularly significant because it was against Wasim, Waqar, Saqlain and Shoaib Ahktar, which was collectively the best attack I think I ever faced. For us as a team it was massive because we were just starting to win a lot of series and we felt that if we could win from that position then we could win any game.

WATCH HERE

A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
102* | England v Australia, Fifth Test, The Oval, 2001

I fought my way into the Australian side for the last match of the Ashes series at The Oval at the expense of Michael Slater. It was my first innings as an opener but more significantly it was the first time I’d opened with Matthew Hayden. I made a hundred and the innings was massive for me personally, and also for the team with the partnership we developed.

THE BOXING DAY PINNACLE
250 | Australia v England, Fourth Test, Melbourne, 2002

Making that score on Boxing Day against England in the Ashes is the pinnacle. During the first two days the Barmy Army were singing about Brett Lee being a chucker. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself so when a journalist asked me about the singing in an interview afterwards I said they were a joke, they were all 50 kilos overweight and they were drunken idiots. Needless to say, after that the Barmy Army were always all over me at games, but it was always fun. It taught me a valuable lesson though, that when things are going well you can’t afford to be too big-headed, because there is always a rough patch around the corner.

WATCH HERE

THE WEST-COUNTRY LOVE AFFAIR
Joining Somerset | 2006

I went over to Somerset for a short period in 2006 and played a few first-class games. I made 342 against Anil Kumble and Surrey and it was during that game that I decided I wanted to sign on with Somerset for the following season and I really fell in love with the place. I had an issue with a guy that used to follow me around all the time and bother me. He showed up at this game so Andy Hurry and Darren Venness, the physio, went round and had a quiet word in his ear. I never saw him again after that and that gave me a real sense of the family feel of the place, how people looked out for one another. I signed up on the bus that very night. They were the three best years of my life.

A FOND FAREWELL
131 | Western Australia v Tasmania, Pura Cup, Perth, 2008

Having had such a wonderful career in Perth I retired from Australian domestic cricket in 2008 and scoring a hundred was a wonderful way to finish. I got 131 in a game that we comfortably won and I’ll always remember my time playing there with real fondness.

BECOMING A LEGEND
107 | Somerset v Worcestershire, County Championship, New Road, 2009

My 86th, and final, first-class hundred was perhaps the most significant of all as it meant I passed Sir Donald Bradman to become the highest Australian first-class runscorer of all time. Matthew Mason bowled me a half volley and I remember playing a cover drive that went for four. The boys on the balcony had known of the milestone and all stood up and applauded. I always thought goals were very important to keep driving me forward and I felt like I could have retired the moment I played that shot.

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