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Justin Langer
Monday 11 October 1999
AB joins the team in time for Presidents XI warm-up

As crazy as it may sound, the past three days have been like heaven in terms of player comfort and enjoyment on the cricket field. After five weeks of playing cricket in hot, humid conditions where you are dripping wet with perspiration for every playing minute, it has been a relief being back to what we would consider normality. One pair of batting gloves per session, rather than having to change them due to saturation every 30 minutes, is a nice reminder that cricket doesn't have to be as tough as it has been in Sri Lanka. Playing in a dry shirt where your Oakley sunglasses aren't fogging up every time you raise your heartbeat above your sleeping rate has been a sweet comfort for everyone.

Taking over for the remainder of this tour, Allan Border arrived before the start of the game and has injected some fresh enthusiasm and ideas into the team. From my point of view it is fantastic having AB here. In terms of batting knowledge and advice, who could be better than the man who has scored more Test runs than any other ? During the second Test in Galle I phoned AB in Brisbane for a few ideas on facing the Sri Lankan spinners and he was only too happy to give me his thoughts on how to best combat the freakish off-spin of 'Murali' in particular. Picking his brain during this game and for the Test match can only be beneficial for any of the batsmen, including yours truly.

Any influence he has already had on this team must have been positive because we have played the perfect preparation game. All of the batsmen spent valuable time at the crease, with 'Tugga' and 'Junior' playing themselves into great Test match form, while I was lucky to hit a few balls in the middle in the first innings. On a flat Bulawayo pitch the captain was in ruthless form smashing the ball with the same ferocity that he displayed during the World Cup, while his brother put aside his Sri Lankan misfortunes with an innings of typical ease and elegance.

On the bowling front Glenn McGrath is easing into his best rhythm and Damien Fleming simply continued his excellent form from the last Test in Colombo. Unfortunately Matt Nicholson, who has flown in to replace Scott Muller, didn't have his best game but I am sure as his confidence grows he will quickly be back to his bounding dynamic best. It was easy to feel sorry for 'Nicho' because he has been working very hard to regain selection in the Aussie team after his debut on Boxing Day last summer. A groin injury kept him out of the second half of last Sheffield Shield season so it is a tribute to his ability and courage that he has been included in this touring squad. He has plenty to offer Australian cricket and after he puts the past few days behind him he will continue his pursuit towards being a regular fast bowler for his country.

We couldn't have asked to play a better three days of cricket. With the Test match starting on Friday we will go into the game feeling fresh and expectant after this confidence boosting practice match.

From Bulawayo, JL