Cricket Australia Items/Blogs/justin-langer/2013/7/9/under-dogs-we-begin

Justin Langer

Underdogs we begin

09 July 2013 2

It's a bit of an exaggeration, but the late nights of hot chocolate and black and white television in front of the fire bring back wonderful childhood memories of Ashes contests in the UK.

Rodney Hogg bowling to Geoff Boycott and the score line of Lillee-caught Willey-bowled Dilley are tattooed into my adolescent brain.  

Then there was Botham's Ashes in 1981, when, as an 11-year-old school boy, I was devastated by an impossible loss to the old enemy.  

Fast forward to 1989, when Mark Taylor was supreme and Steve Waugh introduced himself to the world by playing back foot drives in his Baggy Green cap.  

His Gunn & Moore bat rose to the sky with his maiden Test century and Australia won the Ashes, even though they were touted as the worst Australian team to leave our shores.

In 1993, my world fell apart when I was left out of the Ashes touring team.  

Having made my Test debut a few months before, I was dropped for two kids named Hayden and Slater.  

All I ever wanted was to be on an Ashes tour.  I had to wait another four years.

Although he took my spot, Michael Slater's 100 on debut at Lords, is still one of my favourite Ashes memories.  

Swaggering and smiling and sprinting up and down that mercurial Lords pitch, Slat's epitomised the youthful Australian spirit of 'having a crack' and backing yourself with fearless intent.

Shane Warne was the master in 1997 and Matthew Elliott's 199 at Leeds, where he elegantly hooked and pulled his way to one of the great Ashes innings of all time, is a stunning memory of another triumphant Ashes campaign.

Although I didn't play a Test match I had made an Ashes tour, realised a childhood dream, and I could have retired a happy man, right there and then.

In 2001, Australia dominated again, taking the series 4-1.  

Steve Waugh tore a calf in the third Test match before coming back in the final Test to finish his Ashes career in England with a courageous 150.   

Against all remnants of form or expectation I was selected to play the final Test of that series.  

Having been dropped for the first Test, I was re-selected, ironically as a replacement for my 1993 Ashes hero Michael Slater, who was left out for disciplinary reasons.  

Caught off a no-ball on seven, I was lucky to score a maiden Test century as an opening batsman.  

It is amazing how luck works in life.  Slats never played again and I stayed as an opener for the next six years.

Going out to bat that day I literally felt I had nothing to lose and I was just happy to be partnering one of my best mates Matty Hayden.  Funny how things work out really.

Then, in what has been touted as one of the best Test series of all time, 2005 took all cricket supporters breath away.  

Despite the result of a 2-1 win to England, the contest was sublime.  I wonder what would have happened if Glenn McGrath hadn't stepped on that ball on the morning of the second Test?  We shall never know.

Call it luck again, or maybe, England were destined to make the most of what was one of their most successful periods in their Test history.

Well led by Michael Vaughan, players like Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison and Kevin Pietersen grew wings and stole back that coveted urn after 19 years.

Who will forget the red, blue and white streamers and glitter at The Oval that afternoon when Michael Vaughan lifted the urn to the skies?

It was a sickening feeling from the opposition dressing room.  That's a promise.

In 2009, Anderson and Panesar held on for a draw in the first Test at Cardiff.  

Deflated, the Aussies never seemed to recover and the great player and captain, Ricky Ponting, fended off daggers and swords from all angles, and for the remainder of his career, as he was penalised for skippering two lost campaigns in England.

Now it is 2013 and while I have no attachment to the team, I say, not for the first time, bring it on.

Another Ashes, and a chance for players to make a hero of themselves, and tattoo an Ashes legacy on the hearts and minds of every cricket tragic out there who is thirsting for another Ashes campaign.

Chris Rogers will literally be like a kid on Christmas morning.  

He will be achieving a life long ambition at the tender age of 35.  

With so much experience, he will feel like he has the energy of a teenager.  

He has nothing to lose and because of that he could be dangerous for England.

Alongside Shane Watson, Australia have an opportunity to secure that all important opening partnership.

For too long they have searched for a successful combination, hopefully this is the one that sets a strong foundation for the series.

The Michael Clarke and Darren Lehmann combination will be fascinating to watch.  They both have brilliant cricket minds and I am sure they will have England thinking.

Opinions, predictions and speculation are now over, at least for now, and day one at Trent Bridge is sure to set the scene for what promises to be another memorable series.

Aussies love an underdog.

Underdogs we begin.....

From Perth

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia.
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