|Player:||JL Langer, M Ntini, SJ Harmison|
DateLine: 21st November 2006
Justin Langer says he has no mental scars from the fearful head blow he took in his last Test match and is ready for any short-pitched England bowling in Thursday's Ashes Test opener at the Gabba. The senior Australian opening batsman, playing in his 100th Test match against South Africa in Johannesburg last April, collected a thudding blow from Makhaya Ntini on his helmet that left him in hospital with significant concussion. Langer, who turns 36 on Tuesday, admitted Monday he thought for a short time about his future in the game after the incident, but he is not gun-shy about facing Steve Harmison's steepling deliveries in the Brisbane Ashes Test. "I've played a lot of cricket since it happened and I feel normal," Langer told reporters Monday. "I've been playing for 15 years so I don't feel anything different about Thursday than I ever have. As a 5ft 8in opening batsman I've faced a lot of short-pitched bowling in my life and I'm not sure if I will get more of it in the series. If England decide to bowl short to me I'll find out maybe on Thursday morning." Langer is a courageous Test batsman and took several hits on the body from England's fast bowlers during last year's Ashes series to protect his wicket. The little left-hander, who boxes and practises yoga in his spare time to stay loose, was Australia's top run-getter in the last Ashes with 394 runs at 43.77. "Were there any scars? After I got hit in Johannesburg I wondered if it would have an impact on me, but I got back on the horse and started practising and facing bouncers again just to make sure that any doubts were eliminated," he said. "When you get to this stage your body is like a machine. I watch the ball and it happens, you let go of everything and your body just takes over. I've been playing the pull shot for my career and I've been playing the pull shot for the last couple of months, so if it happens it will happen... I've got no control over that." Langer said he was keen to play on in first-class cricket for four or five more years, but will assess his situation after the Ashes series in January. "As long as you stay in shape and as long as you keep hungry then you can keep playing the game because it's not as physical as footy, but I'm not sure about when I'll retire from the game," he said. "If you place those parameters on yourself you can get a bit distracted so I'm seriously going to have as much time as I can over the next six weeks and see what happens after that. To play in this Ashes series is a massive carrot and after this series we'll see what happens. Langer is keen to renew his banter with England's travelling Barmy Army supporters, who made him a target in the last tour here in 2002/03. "I am expecting to get both barrels from the Barmy Army, but like I keep saying to the Barmy Army as loyal as they are to England, I'm as loyal to my team-mates. When you have two loyal groups there's always going to be a bit of heat there, so we'll see what happens. If I don't make any runs I'll be grumpy and I won't like them, if I make runs I'll be happy. I've learned my lesson, don't worry."