Ashes 2021 tour diary: Justin Langer’s nightmares over Ben Stokes, more border trouble and Gabba pitch report

·4 min read
Justin Langer shakes Ben Stokes’ hand after his extraordinary innings at Headingley (Getty Images)
Justin Langer shakes Ben Stokes’ hand after his extraordinary innings at Headingley (Getty Images)

Standard Sport’s cricket correspondent Will Macpherson provides the third instalment of his Ashes tour diary from Australia as we inch closer to the start of the opening Test in Brisbane.

Ghosts of Ashes past

Poor old Justin Langer admits Ben StokesHeadingley heist still gives him nightmares, but he’s delighted that he’s well enough to compete in the series after his break to rest a finger injury and look after his mental wellbeing.

While we all remember his remarkable 135 not out to take England to victory on the fourth day, Langer is most scarred by his bowling. A day earlier, Stokes bowled an extraordinary spell that lasted more than 24 overs, which CricViz say is the longest by a Test quick since records began 15 years ago.

Langer infamously kicked a bin over – and painstakingly refilled it – as Stokes took England to victory, and his admiration for the all-rounder is well known. He told a story last year about placing a Baggy Green on the Cumbrian’s head – the very highest praise from Langer – as the two teams mixed over a beer after the 2019 series.

“He’s a great cricketer, no doubt about that,” said Langer. “I still have nightmares about his innings in the third Test. I probably have more nightmares about his spell on day three of that game. He’s an unbelievable athlete and a great competitor.

“It’s great for the game that Ben Stokes is playing Ashes cricket. We all love it as an Australian summer and it probably wouldn’t be the same without the best players playing. It’s nice to see and hopefully his health is good. We welcome him here because he is one of the superstars of the game.”

Good on ya, Justin.

Sim bin

Slightly awkwardly, one of the 16 staff members unceremoniously dumped by Yorkshire in the wake of the racism scandal that has engulfed the game, is on tour with England Lions.

Pete Sim, a strength and conditioning coach at Yorkshire, is on secondment with the Lions, but has been part of the mass clearout that followed Azeem Rafiq’s revelations of his experiences at the club.

While there are reports of dismay among Yorkshire players over the situation, those in Brisbane are gutted for Sim, who does appear to be among those dealt a very rough hand. He will remain here until the end of the Lions tour this month.

Scheduling strife – again

As we prepare for a Test in Queensland, a state that is very difficult to enter, much of the talk has been about the Test in Western Australia, a state that is even more difficult to enter. As a result, Perth will lose their fixture, probably to Melbourne, but perhaps to Hobart (which is yet to open up to the world). Cricket Australia have time on their side, with the Fifth Test not until January 16.

But another nasty issue is looming: the Adelaide Test, which begins in just 12 days’ time. South Australia’s government held their nerve today, in the face of a little Covid outbreak in the state, deciding not to close their borders. They have toughened testing, but travel can continue from other Australian states.

David Warner poses with Australia fans before the iconic scoreboard at Adelaide Oval (Getty Images)
David Warner poses with Australia fans before the iconic scoreboard at Adelaide Oval (Getty Images)

It is not impossible, though, that this situation changes in the coming days, which would completely snooker CA, broadcasting corporations and other media (almost none of whom have been able to make it to Queensland, so are covering off tube in Melbourne and Sydney), and a lot of fans travelling from across Australia; Adelaide is the destination Test match these days.

Hopefully the SA government hold firm, otherwise their Test would likely have to be moved, and they will have cancelled Christmas for the second successive year for people in the state with family elsewhere.

How about this for a solution, if things get messy? Shift Adelaide into the Perth slot, allowing things to calm down there. And have the second Test as a day-nighter in Melbourne or Sydney. It would be a big ask on that venue and population, but they have proven more adaptable than other states. Do CA have the agility or willing if the going gets tough?

One thing is for sure, the players on both sides are not up for quarantining again, or any sort of bubble.

Pitch report

There was more good weather in Brisbane today, which is particularly good news for the Gabba groundsman. It is meant to be nice tomorrow, too. After all that rain, the fears were that the pitch would be a total pudding.

While it’s still likely to be green, hopefully this late burst of decent weather will help. That said, the rain is meant to return in time for Wednesday.

BBLiftoff

The Big Bash League begins tomorrow, with double champs Sydney Sixers hosting perennial nearly-men Melbourne Stars at the SCG. There is loads of English interest, with James Vince, Tom Curran and Chris Jordan in the Sixers’ ranks, and Joe Clarke playing for the Stars.

Sky have the BBL UK TV rights, even though BT will show the Ashes.

Read More

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Ashes 2021 tour diary: Stuart Broad relishing Gabba return as Mark Wood winds up Australia again

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