(Reuters) – Australia 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 at Old Trafford.
Holders Australia came within one wicket of retaining the Ashes at Headingley but an unbeaten century by Ben Stokes and a string of fielding mishaps delivered England a nerve-jangling victory and levelled the series at 1-1.
Langer likened Australia’s Headingley 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 told reporters in Manchester ahead of the fourth test starting Wednesday.
“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 only to win one of the last two tests to retain the Ashes in England for the first time since 2001 and will welcome back master batsman Steve Smith at Old Trafford after he missed the third test due to concussion.
While England’s players enjoyed a few days’ rest with family and friends to freshen up after Headingley, Australia played a tour match and Langer demanded rested squad members turn up for the three-day match against Derbyshire.
“In my opinion, the best practice is match practice,” he said. “We rested a number of our first 11 players to give them a mental break and a physical break.
“There were six or seven guys who had a good break in Derby.
“We got plenty out of that game … we played good cricket.
“To win a three-day game in two-and-a-bit days is a pretty good effort … We’re worried about our preparation, not England’s.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)