Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Sydney, 1st day January 3, 2009

Jaques prepares to return from back injury

Cricinfo staff

Phil Jaques made a century in his most recent Test innings but has slipped off the radar due to a back injury © Getty Images

Phil Jaques has been the forgotten man of Australia's top order in the past few months but he hopes to be remembered when the squad for February's tour of South Africa is picked. Jaques had back surgery after returning home from the India series in October and is preparing for a state comeback by the end of January.

Amid all the questions over Matthew Hayden's future and speculation that he could be replaced by Chris Rogers or Phillip Hughes, a Jaques return had been largely overlooked. In his most recent Test, in Barbados in June, Jaques played through back soreness to score 108 and he said the timing his injury lay-off had been frustrating.

"When you're not playing you open the doors to a lot of people," Jaques said on Channel Nine on the first day of the Sydney Test. "There's a lot of guys making runs around Australia at the moment.

"Obviously I'm going to have to come back in and make some runs when I start playing. I've been trying to focus on getting myself right and getting myself back on the park and hopefully my runs will speak for themselves."

Jaques has been batting in the nets for a fortnight and running for three weeks and he said it was terrific to be back in action after "a hard couple of months". He is aiming to return to grade cricket from January 17 with the goal of playing in New South Wales' Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania in Newcastle beginning on January 30.

It is the only four-day opportunity for Jaques ahead of the South Africa tour. Should he fail to make the squad it would mean a long wait until the announcement of the Ashes touring party and for a man who was until six months ago a key part of the Test side, that would be an excruciating wait.

"I'm itching to go," he said. "No one likes getting surgery mid-season, that's for sure, and it's probably been the hardest day today, coming down to the home Test in Sydney and watching the boys run around. It would be great to be out there."