Justin Langer, still discovering himself as a Test batsman and just one-Test-old Adam Gilchrist combined together to pull off a win to remember against a strong Pakistan attack – one that would catapult two of the most glorious careers in Australian cricket.
The Australians were staring down the barrel when Langer and Gilchrist took guard against the fearsome Pakistan attack on day five of the 1999 Hobart Test. Chasing an improbable 369 for victory, the Australians had their batting line-up decimated by Waqar, Wasim, Shoaib and Saqlain the previous afternoon, leaving them 150-5 with Ponting and the Waugh brothers back in the hutch.
Resuming on 188-5 on the last day, what followed was arguably Test cricket’s most audacious run chase, as Gilchrist and Langer put on a monumental 238 for the sixth wicket to take Australia to victory in the third-highest chase in Test history.
Gilchrist played the innings of his life, smashing 149 not out off just 163 balls in a little over four hours. “I just tried to survive initially,” he later said, “but my natural instincts to survive are to play aggressively.”
Langer proved the perfect foil for Gilchrist as the diminutive left-hander battled his way to a pivotal 127 while his partner went berserk at the other end. “I promised Gilly during the whole innings that there was no way I was going to get out if he didn’t get out,” said Langer.
His effort was all the more courageous considering the fragility of his place in the Australian side. After failing in the first Test of the three-match series, Langer knew he was just one low score away from international exile.
From this career-saving launch pad, Langer would go on to enjoy a fruitful decade as Australia’s immovable object. As for the unstoppable force, he’s still swinging.
First published in 2008.