Clark and Jaques set for state comebacks
Stuart Clark and Phil Jaques will both have an opportunity to impress the national selectors ahead of the tour of South Africa when they return to the New South Wales Sheffield Shield side on Friday. The pair is part of the Blues' 12-man squad for the match against Tasmania in Newcastle, where Nathan Hauritz will also turn out having been released from the ODI team.
Clark made his comeback to club cricket on the weekend and collected 4 for 29 from 14 overs having been out of action for six weeks following elbow surgery. Should he make an unhindered return for New South Wales he will be a certainty for the trip to South Africa in late February.
That tour is also the goal for Jaques, who last played for Australia in the West Indies in June. Jaques was included in the squad for the Test series in India in October but was forced home due to an ongoing back problem which required surgery.
He also returned via Sydney's grade competition on the weekend, although with a less successful result after he was lbw to the 49-year-old former Test spinner Greg Matthews for 5. Jaques said the game had been "smooth sailing" physically but he felt he would need a strong performance for the Blues in order to win back his spot in the Test squad.
"I'll be in the frame if I score some runs, and then my fate will be up to the selectors," Jaques told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I don't think anything is a given in Australian cricket, I think there's a lot of good cricketers running around."
Jaques could be competing for a Test opening slot with his New South Wales top-order partner Phillip Hughes. The incumbent in the Australia line-up, Simon Katich, is also in the New South Wales side for his first Sheffield Shield match of the summer.
The four-day game will be the final opportunity for the men to find form before the squad for South Africa is picked. Hauritz will also be keen for wickets as the Victoria legspinner Bryce McGain, who was originally the first-choice slow bowler for the India tour, is back in action and will use the next round of state matches to push his claims for a Test debut.
New South Wales squad Phil Jaques, Phillip Hughes, Simon Katich (capt), Dominic Thornely, Peter Forrest, Ben Rohrer, Daniel Smith (wk), Beau Casson, Nathan Hauritz, Stuart Clark, Mark Cameron, Doug Bollinger.