Matthew Hayden's replacement January 16, 2009

Injury flare-up postpones Jaques comeback

Cricinfo staff

Phil Jaques has not played a Test since the tour of the West Indies © Getty Images

Phil Jaques has delayed his return from back surgery by a week in a move that keeps the race to replace Matthew Hayden open. If Jaques is fit he is expected to be part of next month's Test tour of South Africa, but New South Wales' Phillip Hughes and Chris Rogers, from Victoria, are also strong contenders for the opening spot alongside Simon Katich.

Jaques was due to play grade cricket in Sydney for Sutherland on Saturday, but experienced pain after training during the week and will instead aim to come back on January 24. New South Wales have a Sheffield Shield game six days later and the national selectors usually insist on a player proving their fitness through a domestic match.

Jaques' manager Warren Craig said the batsman saw his specialist on Friday. "Phil experienced a small amount of discomfort after a training session during the week, as a result of which his surgeon recommended allowing an extra week for recovery," Craig said. "According to the surgeon, the usual recovery time from this type of surgery is three months, and as Phil's operation was on 20 October and, given the tours to South Africa and England, it was thought this course of action was in his best interests."

The disruption is a setback for Jaques, who resumed training last month and could drive through cover without feeling pain. He was hindered by the bulging disc problem and went for surgery after being replaced by Katich during the India tour. Katich has already said he would drop down the order for New South Wales to allow Jaques and Hughes, who is currently carrying a leg injury, a chance to press their claims for Hayden's spot.