Ashes 2021-22: Langer confirms embattled Harris will play Boxing Day Test

By Sports Desk December 22, 2021

Australia coach Justin Langer has confirmed Marcus Harris will play the Ashes Boxing Day Test at the MCG against England despite his poor run of form.

Harris has only managed 38 runs from four innings during the series and averages 22.19 during a 12-game Test career with only two half-centuries from 23 innings leading to pressure on his spot as David Warner's opening partner.

Australia's 2-0 Ashes lead has helped ease some pressure on Harris but Langer publicly threw his support behind him in a further boost for the embattled Victorian.

"He'll play in the Test, no worries about that," Langer told reporters on Thursday. "This is his home ground. He's played a lot at the MCG.

"He hasn't made the runs he'd like to so far, but he dominates domestic cricket so he knows that he knows how to play.

"He's a fantastic bloke around the squad ... And we know he's a very good player. For him and for us we're hoping he plays well and gets a good partnership with Davey Warner in this Boxing Day Test match."

Australia's opening partnerships in the four innings this Ashes have equated to an average of 17.75, with stands of 10, 16, four and 41.

Langer added: "We're really confident Marcus has got what it takes to be a successful Australian opening batsman and what we see in the nets, what we see in domestic cricket all adds up to what is potentially a very good Test career.

"One of the building blocks of a great team is the opening partnership and top three. We're determined to get that right."

Former Australia left-handed opener Langer endured similar struggles during his playing career but was backed by ex-captain Steve Waugh.

The 51-year-old coach, who worked with Harris during their time in WA, said it was important Harris felt "important to the team" to bring out the best in him.

"That's absolutely one of the most important things in life, knowing people have got your back," Langer said.

"My experience, when Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Mark Taylor or Allan Border said 'you're in the team', you feel like Superman. You feel like you're important to the team and Marcus Harris is important to the team."

Related items

  • The Numbers Game: Liverpool plot revenge as Real Madrid look to continue incredible finals streak The Numbers Game: Liverpool plot revenge as Real Madrid look to continue incredible finals streak

    European club football's main event is almost here, with two bona fide giants of the game set to face off at the Stade de France on Saturday.

    Either Real Madrid or Liverpool will be crowned champions of Europe in Paris; whichever team manages it will be providing their fans with a glorious end to a tremendous season.

    Of course, Madrid did what Liverpool could not on the domestic front, as Los Blancos head into this game as LaLiga champions – the Reds ultimately missed out to Manchester City on the last day of the Premier League campaign.

    But this has still been a successful season for Jurgen Klopp's side, who could yet claim a treble having already lifted the EFL Cup and FA Cup in England.

    It promises to be an immense spectacle, with Opta's pre-match facts highlighting the wealth of footballing greatness that is set to be on display.

    The history

    Much of the build-up to this match has centred around two separate narratives of "revenge" relating to the 2018 Champions League final meeting between these two.

    The first obvious desire for retribution comes simply from the fact Madrid won 3-1 in Kyiv – the other surrounds Mohamed Salah, whose match was ended early on that occasion after a collision with Sergio Ramos.

    Either way, if Liverpool – and Salah – are to have their vengeance, they'll need to contend with Madrid's astonishing record: they have won each of their previous seven Champions League/European Cup finals.

    To put that stat into context, no other team have even won the competition more than seven times, let alone won in seven consecutive final appearances.

    But if you're looking for omens, answer this: who last beat Madrid in a European Cup/Champions League final, and where was it played?

    Liverpool, in Paris (1981)…

    The managers

    For about 24 hours, Klopp had joined an exclusive list of managers who had reached the European Cup/Champions League final four times.

    But then Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid pulled off their third great escape in as many knockout ties, meaning the Italian would set a new record for the most final appearances as a manager in UEFA's flagship competition.

    But the historic achievement he'll no doubt be craving is still up for grabs.

    Victory on Saturday will ensure Ancelotti is the first manager to lift the trophy four times, having won the competition in 2003, 2007 and 2014.

    But here's another omen. The only club to beat an Ancelotti team in a Champions League final? That's right, Liverpool in 2005.

    Nevertheless, Klopp doesn't have a particularly encouraging record against Los Blancos. He's faced them nine times in the Champions League, with his 33 per cent success rate the worst among teams he's faced at least three times.

    The danger men

    It would be fair to bill this match as something of a Ballon d'Or shootout.

    Certainly, ahead of Saturday, the favourite is Karim Benzema, and with good reason. The France striker has enjoyed an incredible season and been central to Madrid's route to the final – he has scored 15 goals, two behind the all-time record for a single Champions League/European Cup campaign.

    What helps make that such a remarkable achievement is the fact he would become the second-oldest scorer in a Champions League final (34 years, 160 days) after Paolo Maldini (36 years, 333 days) if he does net in Paris.

    Madrid will likely need to keep the vengeful Salah in check, however.

    Since the start of the 2017-18 season, the Egyptian has 44 Champions League goal involvements, a tally bettered only by Robert Lewandowski (55) and Kylian Mbappe (47).

    If Liverpool are successful, Salah will surely become the frontrunner for the Ballon d'Or – unless Sadio Mane, who has scored three in his past four Champions League games and won the Africa Cup of Nations, has a decisive impact.

    The prize

    Liverpool are bidding to join Milan with seven European Cup/Champions League crowns, the second-most in the competitions' collective history.

    Of course, the only team with more than seven are Madrid. Victory for them will take them to 14 titles, remarkably twice as many as any other club, a fact that really highlights their obsession with the competition.

    Either way, a behemoth of European football will enjoy another memorable occasion in Paris on Saturday.

    But if it's Liverpool who succeed, it'll be difficult to look at this as anything other than the early stages of English domination in the Champions League, given Premier League teams have won two of the past three already.

  • French Open: Ruthless Djokovic powers past Bedene to set up Schwartzman contest French Open: Ruthless Djokovic powers past Bedene to set up Schwartzman contest

    Novak Djokovic cruised to a straight-sets win over Aljaz Bedene in the third round of the French Open, beating the Slovenian 6-3 6-3 6-2 to set up a last-16 clash with Diego Schwartzman.

    Serbian star Djokovic, who is bidding to become the first player other than Rafael Nadal to win consecutive men's singles titles at Roland Garros since Gustavo Kuerten triumphed in 2000 and 2001, produced a ruthless display to blow away world number 195 Bedene in just one hour and 44 minutes.

    Djokovic started as he meant to go on, launching an onslaught which forced Bedene to save five break points throughout his first two service games, before the Slovenian finally succumbed to a break in his third.

    The top seed was virtually perfect on his own serve, winning 94 per cent of points on first serve in the opening set before picking up another decisive break just three games into the second.

    Despite appearing to struggle with the glare at times on a sun-bathed Court Philippe-Chatrier, Djokovic continued his professional display to move closer to victory, recording just three unforced errors to his opponent's 13 in the second set.

    To the delight of some in the crowd, Bedene forced his first and only break point of the encounter in the opening game of the third set, only for Djokovic to power a fierce volley past the 32-year-old before recovering to hold serve.

    The world number one did not look back from there, breaking to love in the fourth game before wrapping up a routine win after forcing two match points on Bedene's serve to set up a seventh career meeting with Schwartzman, against whom he boasts a 100 per cent record.

    Data Slam: Dominant Djokovic wraps up another straight-sets win

    The world number one looks to be hitting form at the perfect time after a troubled start to the year: Djokovic has won 19 straight sets of tennis since the start of the Internazionale d'Italia earlier this month, recording a series of perfect displays since his Madrid Open final loss to Carlos Alcaraz.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Djokovic 30/18
    Bedene 23/37

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Djokovic 9/1
    Bedene 4/2

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Djokovic 5/11
    Bedene 0/1

  • 'Looks good' for Thiago and Fabinho ahead of Champions League final, Klopp confirms 'Looks good' for Thiago and Fabinho ahead of Champions League final, Klopp confirms

    Jurgen Klopp is expecting both Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho to be fit to feature for Liverpool in Saturday's Champions League final against Real Madrid.

    The two key midfielders were doubts for the Reds heading to Paris this week.

    Thiago hobbled out of the final match of the Premier League season against Wolves with a calf injury, while a hamstring complaint means Fabinho has not played since the win at Aston Villa on May 10.

    However, Klopp offered a positive update in his pre-match news conference on Friday.

    "The mood is good, very good," the Liverpool manager said. "We're really excited about being here now, getting a feeling of the stadium, the location. That's all good.

    "It looks good for both Thiago and Fabinho. Fabinho trained completely normal; Thiago trained yesterday with the team, will train today, and then we will go from there."

    Liverpool are unbeaten in the nine games they have played this season without either Thiago or Fabinho in the starting XI, although they have drawn three of those matches.

    The pair have appeared together in the line-up 20 times in 2021-22, contributing to an outstanding 17 wins.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.