When people hear the name Justin Langer, number 9 on our countdown with 105 caps, they immediately think of words such as tenacious, steely and gritty.
Few batsmen across the world can compete with Langer when it comes to the fighting spirit he showed on the cricket field.
Diminutive in stature, the Western Australian legend more than made up for it with his hunger to succeed.
Despite making his debut in the 1992/93 series against the West Indies, Langer was never a regular in the Australian squad.
Eight Tests in six years left him wondering if he would ever cement a spot in the national side, with the talented left-hander having to bide his time in First Class cricket.
Langer earned a recall to the side at number three, and it was here that he played the most important innings of his career.
With Australia reeling at 5/126, Langer was joined by Adam Gilchrist in a desperate bid to chase down the 369 set by Pakistan.
In what would later be dubbed a miracle, the two survived a number of close calls to put on a stunning 238 stand to win the match.
Any doubts over his talent had been emphatically quashed.
After missing several matches through poor form, Langer returned to the Test side to replace Michael Slater as opener.
A crafty century in his return match solidified his position in the team.
One of the best things to watch was Langer’s incredible relationship with his opening partner Matthew Hayden.
The pair was a breath of fresh air in the cricketing world, with the two rekindling memories of just how fun the game can be.
In the 113 innings they played together, Langer and Hayden combined for 5,655; the second greatest total of all time.
Langer enjoyed his return to Australia, hitting double centuries against India at the SCG, and a career best 250 against England in the Boxing Day Test.
Continuing his love affair for the old enemy, Langer was Australia’s leading run getter in the failed Ashes tour of 2005, scoring 391 runs in the five Test campaign.
A spate of injuries threatened to force the fighter into an early retirement.
A lingering hamstring complaint, as well as regular blows were taking its toll on Langer’s body, with the opener missing substantial chunks of the 2006 season.
Fittingly, he was forced to retire hurt in his 100th Test match following a vicious delivery from Makhaya Ntini.
Instead of throwing in the towel, Langer opted for one more bout; winning back the Ashes on home soil.
It would prove to be a wise decision, with Langer starring in the opening match of the series with a well-made century.
After announcing his retirement ahead of the Fifth Test, Langer had the honour of being at the crease with his best friend when the winning runs were hit.
A 5-0 series sweep was a perfect end to a career of one of the toughest men to ever put the pads on.
Justin Langer had been Australia’s batting coach for a couple of seasons before accepting the vacant coaching role at the Warriors and Perth Scorchers.
Number 5 – Langer Beats Pakistan
Playing in front of his friends and family at the WACA, Langer did the unthinkable when he single-handedly outscored the entire Pakistani team.
After destroying them five years earlier, Langer continued to torment the Pakistani attack, by bludgeoning scores of 191 and 97.
In reply, the visitors could only manage 179 and 72.
It was an unprecedented scenario that has to go down as one of the greatest (and possibly most bizarre) records in cricketing history.
Number 4 – Boxing Day Bonanza
Having already earned his black belt in Taekwondo, Langer took it upon himself to exact more pain on his rivals in the Boxing Day Test in 2002/03.
In front of nearly 100,000 fans, as well as millions of well-fed viewers at home, Langer produced his most fluent innings to bash the English attack all over the MCG.
The brutal knock was the perfect recipe for any post-Christmas hangover, and left England lying flat on the canvas.
The 250 was his highest score at Test level.
Number 3 – The Quick and the Red
Possibly the only thing Justin Langer liked more than a shiny new red ball was a heated confrontation with a fiery quick.
Always struggling in the height department, Langer more than made up for his lack of size with a steely grit that earned him respect from opening bowlers across the world.
Whether it was the West Indian duo of Ambrose and Walsh, or the pace trio from Pakistan, Langer stood tall against anything they could offer; often fighting fire with fire.
His famous pull shot was a tell-tale sign that he feared no one from the opposition.
His actions against the new ball instilled confidence within the rest of the team, as well as his partner at the other end.
Number 2 – Best Mates
Sport can often be confused with simply being a job.
For Justin Langer, the “workplace” would lead to him to a friendship that people can only dream of.
Few athletes have struck a bond like Langer and Hayden.
Alongside their sheer talent, it was their love for each other that turned them into one of the greatest opening pairs of all time.
5,655 runs in 113 innings leaves them as the second most successful opening duo of all time.
And in a perfectly scripted finale, the two friends were at the crease when Australia sealed the 5-0 romp against England to reclaim the Ashes.
Number 1 – The Hobart Hero
At 5/126, Australia was next to no chance of chasing down Pakistan’s 369.
Even with Langer and Gilchrist at the crease, few would have given the hosts any chance of even passing 200 on a wicket that was proving impossible to play.
Against the likes of Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq, the pair took it upon themselves to salvage the unsalvageable.
The 238 run stand is one of the finest in recent memory, with Langer defying the star studded attack for almost seven hours.
Despite not being at the crease when the winning runs were hit, Langer’s knock is regarded as the gutsiest in his illustrious career.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 06 December, 2012 11:28AM AEST