Langer's Test spot safe: Ponting - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Langer's Test spot safe: Ponting

By Greg Buckle 25/12/2005 07:13:17 PM Comments (0)

Australian captain Ricky Ponting has strongly backed opener Justin Langer who is facing a new set of hurdles in his career as he battles injury, age, scheduling concerns and criticism from Dennis Lillee.

Ponting says he is "pretty sure" Langer will slot straight back into the side for the three-Test tour of South Africa in March.

NSW left-hander Phil Jaques will make his Test debut in Melbourne on Monday as Langer nurses a hamstring strain he suffered in the first Test against South Africa in Perth last week.

Langer, 35, is desperately trying to prove his fitness for the third Test in Sydney starting on January 2.

If Langer's bid to play at the SCG fails, the Western Australian will be relying on Pura Cup matches to regain form, fitness and Test selection ahead of the South Africa tour.

The gutsy left-hander was due to play his 100th Test in Sydney but that dream has been shattered first by a rib injury which caused him to miss the first two Tests of last month's West Indies series, then by his current hamstring strain.

"I still think he's batting as well as ever. That's the way you've got to judge it I guess, on current form," Ponting said.

"He's been playing beautifully. He played well in Perth in both innings (37 and 47) without getting a big score.

"In the Test before that he got a 99 in Adelaide, so he's obviously in good touch.

"I've got no worries about him. I hope he's right for Sydney. If he is that's great.

"If he's not, well then I'm pretty sure he'll come straight back into the side when the next lot of Test cricket is (played)."

Langer showed his fondness for a challenge by topping Australia's Ashes averages with 394 runs at 43.77 this year.

With Langer briefly out of the side, Ponting said he would like to see the talented Jaques immediately prove himself as a Test player.

"Yeah let's hope so. Although in saying that, Justin (Langer) and Matty (Hayden, 34) have hopefully still got a few years ahead of them yet," Ponting said.

Former Australian fast bowling great Lillee said in a Perth newspaper column this week selectors needed to groom new opening batsmen for next summer's Ashes series because there was a danger Hayden and Langer could be exposed by England's pace attack.

"It's a great opportunity for Phil, there's no doubt about that," Ponting said.

"He's done everything right in the last couple of years in domestic cricket and even with his (English) County cricket performances to justify his selection.

"A Boxing Day Test in Melbourne in front of the big crowd is something pretty special.

"I'm sure he's well aware of that and he's well-prepared.

"At that age (26), they're the sorts of guys you want to have coming into your side."

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