Langer reveals his hardest opponents

Test great lifts the lid on the bowlers he had the most challenging time with through his decorated career

Legendary Test opener Justin Langer faced some of the fiercest fast bowlers in cricket history but the current Western Australia coach has revealed the man he most feared with ball in hand was actually a spinner.

Langer, who played 105 Tests between 1993 and 2007, said off-spinner Muthiah Muralidaran, who took 800 wickets through his record-breaking Test career, was the man who he found most difficult to face.

"I'd say Muralidaran from Sri Lanka," Langer told TABradio. "That might surprise some, being a spinner, but he gave me more sleepless nights than anyone.

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"He had this really unusual action – which is very well-documented but it was like a magician; it came out of his hand, and my mind knew he was bowling off-spinners but because of the way he released the ball it looked like he was bowling leg-spinners.

"It was an absolute nightmare to be honest; he was so accurate, you couldn't score off him, he'd spin it a mile and he was also an unbelievable competitor."

Langer played eight Tests against Sri Lanka and averaged 35.85 against the subcontinental nation – the lowest return against any nation other than Zimbabwe, against whom he only batted four times.

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Interestingly, Muralidaran played in six of those matches but only managed to remove the feisty West Australian twice (for scores of seven and 32) – two fewer times than fellow renowned tweakers of the time Daniel Vettori, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh all managed.

Langer stayed with the Asian theme when picking both the best and fastest pacemen he came up against, opting for a pair of Pakistani legends.

"The best quick bowler (I faced) was Wasim Akram from Pakistan – he was a genius," Langer added. "And probably Shoaib Akhtar was the fastest."

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Langer, who was dropped for the start of the 2001 Ashes but returned to the side for the final Test series at the top of the order and went on to forge Australia's most successful first-wicket combination with Matthew Hayden, recalled how he and the Queenslander worked out how to get the best of express quick Shoaib.

"Different bowlers, you had to treat differently," he said. "With Shoaib Akhtar, we knew that if we wound him up, he'd try and bowl faster and faster.

"And the faster he'd try to bowl, he'd give you a couple of balls to hit for four every over.

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"So I kept smiling at him and we used to really bait him, and he just got angrier and angrier, and that was our ploy."

Evidently, it worked; Langer played Shoaib in 10 Tests and lost his wicket to the paceman just twice (for scores of 30 and 144), scoring four hundreds in the process.

Two of those came on his home patch of the WACA Ground in Perth – a pitch generally considered the quickest on the planet through the Australian's career.

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