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Langer says time is still on Australia's side

"There's still plenty of time for a result in this Test match," said the durable batsman, dropped on 53 by Trescothick.

india Updated: Sep 10, 2005 17:49 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Justin Langer told Australia fans there was "plenty of time" for the team to retain the Ashes after the tourists stunned England by going off for bad light in the fifth and final Test here at The Oval.

Australia will resume Saturday, the third day, on 112 without loss in their first innings, 261 behind England's 373, in a match they must win to level the current campaign at 2-2 and so maintain their 16-year grip on the Ashes.

Langer is currently 75 not out and fellow left-handed opener Matthew Hayden unbeaten on 32 after the pair shared their first century stand of the series.

The duo were frustrating England, without injured fast bowler Simon Jones who'd taken 18 wickets at 21 apiece in the series, but immediately after tea onFriday accepted an offer of bad light.

Given England only needed to avoid defeat to win their first Ashes series since 1986-87, it appeared they would benefit most from any stoppages.

But 34-year-old Western Australia star Langer told reporters after stumps on Friday: "When we walked out to bat, anyone could see at the ground, it was very dark. Andrew Flintoff was reverse-swinging the ball just before tea and we felt it was best to play him in the best conditions possible."

"Unfortunately it hang around for the whole session. Of course it's frustrating and people are jumping up and down about it," admitted the durable batsman, dropped on 53 by first slip Marcus Trescothick, a difficult chance, off medium-pacer Paul Collingwood.

"But at this stage we've only lost half-an-hour, an hour. The way this series has gone most Tests have been decided in four days. There's still plenty of time for a result in this Test match."

"We've played pretty good cricket in this Test match," added Langer who saw leg-spin legend Shane Warne confound England again with six for 122.

"To bowl England out for 373 on that wicket, which is a magnificent batting wicket and a fast outfield was a credit to our bowlers, particularly Warney, and we've got the opportunity to score heavily tomorrow (Saturday) or whenever the weather allows us to do that."

England are now in a similar position to Australia, who've fielded just the four specialist bowlers this series with the hosts previously using five.

Jones's absence means England will hope left-arm spinner Ashley Giles can bowl enough overs to ensure the three remaining quicks -- Stephen Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Flintoff -- get adequate rest between stints.

But Langer took 14 off Giles's first over including two sixes.

"If we're able to do that to them, with only four bowlers, then all of a sudden (England captain) Michael Vaughan is going to be under the pump," Langer explained.

Meanwhile Hayden, who in his previous 30 Test innings hadn't scored more than 70, battled his way through 149 mins at the crease having needed 53 balls to reach double figures.

"It's the first time Matty Hayden and I have got off to a really good start. It's been a crucial component of the success of the team over the last few years. Hopefully our first hundred partnership this series has come at the right time."

"It's no secret Haydos hasn't been Bradmanesque like he's been for four years or whatever and he's shown he's human. But he worked really hard and played well."

Giles, who finished on Friday with seven overs for 31, said. "One over for 14 tends to concern you but I had an idea they'd come at me, particularly being one of four bowlers. I'll just try to hold up one end."

And of Australia's decision to take the light, he added: "We were a little bit surprised and shocked."

"Of course I hope they live to regret it but there's three days left in this Test match. We can't, and (Australia captain) Ricky Ponting can't, afford to cloud watch," said Giles.

First Published: Sep 10, 2005 17:49 IST