Oval a perfect spot for Warner turnaround, says Langer
Coach knows one innings from superstar opener can help Australia win the Ashes, at a venue with which he has a special shared history
Andrew Ramsey in London
11 September 2019, 11:56 AM AEST
If anyone appreciates the opportunity the final Ashes Test at The Oval presents for Australia's struggling opener David Warner, it's men's team coach Justin Langer.
Warner has endured a tough series tackling the new ball, particularly against England seamer Stuart Broad, and has managed just one double-figure score (61) in eight innings with ducks from each of his last three starts.
But Langer has once again thrown his support behind the former vice-captain, reiterating his belief that if Warner produces just one of his trademark, quick-fire knocks of substance then Australia are favoured to win the final Test.
And the Australia coach can reflect upon his own experience wrought from similar circumstance when he claims The Oval provides the ideal venue for Warner to turn his series around.
During Australia's 2001 Ashes campaign in the UK, Langer lost his place in Australia's Test team having posted a solitary half-century from his previous seven innings.
He was thrown a lifeline for the final Test when Michael Slater was dropped after failing to pass 25 in six successive innings.
Then, having been installed in the role of opener, Langer made a career-defining century that led to him becoming a permanent fixture in Australia's Test team for the next six years.
Langer has been asked several times during the current campaign about Warner's form and the hold established over him by Broad (who has dismissed him six times in eight innings) and has responded similarly on each occasion.
He has claimed that seeing proven players of Warner's calibre enduring a lean trot brings a smile to his face because he knows the run-drought will eventually break.
However, when the topic was raised again after Australia completed their penultimate training session of the tour at The Oval on Tuesday, he conceded that Warner's contribution of 79 runs at 9.87 per innings was a concern.
"Davey hasn't had a great series, there's no secrets about that," Langer said.
"But he's also a word-class player and I've said throughout the whole series, if Davey has one good innings it'll help us win the Ashes.
"He probably hasn't been through this lean run before, so it's going to be a good test of his character.
"But he's a match-winner and he's been brilliant around the group since he's been back (from suspension).
"He's been great, good for the crowds, good amongst the group.
"He hasn't got the runs he wants at the moment but jeez I'm looking forward to seeing it when he does, and there's no better place in the world to bat than The Oval."
Warner spent much of Tuesday's nets session, in which the bowlers from the fourth Test win at Old Trafford did not take part, sending down a lengthy spell of his right-arm seamers.
But he donned the pads late in the hit-out to pit himself against throw-downs delivered by his former skipper and in-form batter of the current Ashes series, Steve Smith.
For the only time since he was forced to sit-out training due to the effects of delayed concussion, Smith attended practice but did not pick up a bat.
Having already faced 998 deliveries in this Ashes series, from which he has scored 671 runs at an average of 134.2 per innings, Smith hardly needs to engage in any drills to improve his already razor-sharp form.
But the sight of the world's top-ranked Test batter choosing not to enter the nets where he has been a near-permanent fixture since Australia arrived in the UK almost five months ago was noteworthy for its uniqueness.
Langer was quick to scotch any suggestion that Smith opted out of batting on Tuesday because he was tired of hitting balls.
"I know he's got some strong goals for this series, and moving forward," Langer said of the former Australia captain.
"I'd say, after spending that much time in the middle and the emotions of the last game (at Old Trafford), sometimes with batters it's more a mental rest than anything else.
"I've got a feeling he might hit a few balls tomorrow (Wednesday)."
The dominance of Smith, who has scored more than twice as many runs as any other batter in the series apart from England allrounder Ben Stokes (354 runs at 59), suggests that batting has been nigh-on impossible for mere mortals.
However, Langer said that while Smith's heroics had underscored his current standing as the pre-eminent Test batter in world cricket, it also highlighted that batting during this Ashes series has been far from impossible.
He also claimed the nature of the pitches prepared at the back end of British summer, most of which have been drier than expected and carried no trace of live grass, had helped to make the Ashes contest poised 2-1 in Australia's favour so compelling.
"There's no doubt they've been bowler-friendly wickets this series, which I've said for a long time is great for Test cricket," Langer said.
"It's most important for the health of Test cricket, moving forward, that you're playing on competitive wickets.
"Great players make runs, the game's always moving forward, you're on the edge of your seat.
"I think the wickets this series have been fantastic for that.
"If you're aspiring to be the best you can be, you've got to keep getting better to see if you can reach the standards that Steve Smith and Ben Stokes have reached this summer."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia won by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Third Test: England won by one wicket at Headingley
Fourth Test: Australia won by 185 runs at Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval