Contenders line up for opening spot
The out-going Matthew Hayden has refused to anoint his successor as the queue to partner Simon Katich in the Test team grows. Phil Jaques will return to grade cricket in Sydney on Saturday after recovering from back surgery and will compete with Chris Rogers and Phillip Hughes for positions in the touring squad to South Africa, which will be chosen early next month.
"With regards to who will replace me, it's a difficult challenge and I can't win one way or the other," Hayden said after announcing his retirement in Brisbane. He encouraged the applicants to "leap in with absolute vigour and joy". "It's an enormous privilege to play and I'm sure those guys, who will potentially be playing for Australia, will be in the nets now trying to work out their game so they can play."
Jaques scored a century in his previous Test in the West Indies before succumbing to injury in India, where Katich confirmed his place. Katich finished the Test summer as the No. 1 opener, having earned 1129 runs at 56.45 in 2008, and will soon be in the position as the senior man in the opening partnership.
Katich and Jaques combined in three Tests in the West Indies last year when Hayden was missing with a heel injury. Hughes, 20, is having a second strong year with New South Wales, scoring 730 runs in seven games, while Rogers has 661 at 82.62 after switching from Western Australia to Victoria in the off-season.
"It's hard to know exactly where I am, hopefully the selectors see me as an option," Rogers said in the Sydney Morning Herald. "Scoring runs is the only thing that's going to persuade selectors. I am trying not to worry about it, it is a pretty exciting time and it's easy to get carried away. All the players in contention are very good players and have things to offer."
Hayden laughed when asked whether David Warner's performance in the Twenty20 match, when he slammed 89 from 43 balls against South Africa on Sunday, had any impact on his decision. "It gave me an enormous smile," Hayden said. "I love watching entertaining cricket ...
"What Warner showed the other night, and what a lot of the great players who have played for Australia have shown, is it's about batting intent. That's what stimulates the individual who is playing the game and that's what stimulates the audience, the team, and makes the game entertaining."