Coach Langer invokes Ali's tale to inspire Aussies

MANCHESTER • Australia cricket coach Justin Langer has sought to inspire his team with the tale of boxer Muhammad Ali and his stolen bike to put the Headingley setback behind them and seize back the "stolen" Ashes.

Holders Australia came within one wicket of retaining the famous urn but an unbeaten century by Ben Stokes and a string of fielding mishaps delivered England a nerve-jangling third Test win and levelled the five-match series at 1-1.

Langer likened Australia's despair to the theft of Ali's bike in Louisville, Kentucky, which led to the then-12-year-old taking up boxing in a local policeman's gym.

"Champions have all had times of adversity, whether it's in business, sport or life," Langer said before the fourth Test that starts today.

"The ones who come back from it... think about Muhammad Ali getting his bike stolen. That was the fire he needed to become the greatest boxer of all time.

"We felt a bit like we got the Ashes stolen the other day. Now we've got to work out what we're going to do, and use that as fire."

Australia have to win one of the last two Tests, or draw both, to retain the Ashes in England for the first time since 2001.

Australia will welcome back master batsman Steve Smith at Old Trafford after he missed the third match owing to concussion.

Smith, in his first Test series since completing a 12-month ball-tampering ban, scored 144 and 142 in the 251-run win in the opener at Edgbaston before making 92 in the drawn second Test at Lord's.

While England's players enjoyed a few days' rest with family and friends to freshen up after Headingley, Australia played a tour match.

Langer demanded rested squad members turn up for the three-day match at Derbyshire, where Mitchell Starc took seven wicket against the second-division strugglers who were bowled out for 172 and 112 either side of a declared total of 338 for five.

"The best practice is match practice," he said. "We rested a number of our first XI to give them a mental break and a physical break."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2019, with the headline 'Coach Langer invokes Ali's tale to inspire Aussies'. Print Edition | Subscribe