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Langer Admits to "Sleepless Nights" About Defeat to Sri Lanka

Justin Langer (Image: Reuters)

Justin Langer (Image: Reuters)

It has been a challenging time for Justin Langer as coach of the Australian team, and he admits to having sleepless nights ahead of the Gabba Test against Sri Lanka, knowing the pressure the team were under.

It has been a challenging time for Justin Langer as coach of the Australian team, who admits to having sleepless nights ahead of the Gabba Test against Sri Lanka, knowing the pressure the team were under.

Thankfully for Langer, Pat Cummins’ superb show helped his side romp home to an innings-and-40-run win to stay unbeaten in Brisbane since 1988.

"I kept thinking before the game, imagine if we get beaten by Sri Lanka at the Gabba. That's why I haven't slept much the past week. Hopefully I'll sleep a bit easier tonight," Langer said on Saturday (January 26) after Australia's win.

The coach was also pondering how he can give Kurtis Patterson a debut ahead of Will Pucovski at a time when selection policies are facing criticism.

Langer was aware that not picking the 20-year-old Pucovski would raise questions, especially since the more the experienced Joe Burns was preferred in the final XI.

"We decided and it was controversial. To see how it would be received from the public picking someone from outside the (squad), spoke to a few people I trusted about it and we just felt it was a really common sense thing to do. You agonise more probably at this point of the season about what's going to get reported on, if I'm completely frank. Hopefully I'll get tougher over the years that way and won't think about that.

"He got 100 in both innings against Sri Lanka and you talk about rewarding performance. So when it came down to that, although we'd selected the squad before, I was really glad we had the courage to have that flexibility and bring someone in from outside that original squad."

The Australians are likely to use an unchanged team in the second Test in Canberra according to Langer. The Australians, who have also called-up Marcus Stoinis, will take a final decision after assessing conditions.

Patterson made a solid 30 off 82 balls in the middle order, impressing Langer. The coach, however, rued that Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head missed their centuries. The duo had added 166 for the fifth wicket, Australia's highest since the final Test of the 2017-18 Ashes.

"Marnus and Travis Head's partnership was significant. Both threw away an opportunity to score 100s," Langer said. "The best way to learn how to make hundreds is to make hundreds, so they know they missed an opportunity yesterday. I thought Kurtis Patterson looked like a Test batsman.

"More than just the runs, (Marnus) had good footwork, he plays spin really well. I thought he played the spin so well. He plays almost like an Indian batsman, he gets back, uses his feet, and uses his hands (to get the ball) into gaps, uses the sweep shot well, gets down the wicket.

"I think Heady hit one loose shot and it was almost like, 'oh snap, that's right, everything I've been talking about'... and then he let the ball come to him and he looked like a really good Test player. The thing that's most impressive about Travis is how he keeps learning, keeps getting better. The way he's playing spin from a year ago, his forward defence against offspin, the way he's able to come down the wicket, he's improving all the time and that's all you can ask for."

Langer also backed the struggling pair of Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Starc. Khawaja fell for 11, bowled for the third time in the last three balls he'd faced from Dilruwan Perera in Test cricket. Starc managed his 200th Test wicket but he was the least impressive of the bowlers, following on from an underwhelming finish to the India series.

"I suppose there's high expectation on Mitchell but he's a very good player and is really important for our team. Same with Usman. He still averages 40 in Test cricket. He's our most experienced player. He's very calm. He brings a lot of calmness and composure and experience to the group, so we're happy with the way he's going at the moment."

Langer also said Australia will finalise their Ashes squad only during or after the Australia A tour of England.

"We probably won’t pick the final Ashes squad until quite late," Langer said. "I hope I’m not talking out of school with the other selectors, but I can’t see us picking the Ashes (squad) before the Australia A tour, for example.

"Maybe halfway through, or three quarters of the way through (the A tour). It would be really good opportunities for the guys who are picked for Australia A, while the World Cup is on, to put their hand up.

"We've got a really good opportunity through Australia A and the last four Sheffield Shield rounds played with the (English-made) Dukes ball, and a Shield final. So we’ll get a pretty good indication of who is up and running, and we’ll get the opportunity to see the Australia A tour. That's why it’s there."