Jaques faces a familiar enemy
One of Trevor Bayliss' tasks as Sri Lanka's coach is working out a way to ruin the international re-entry of a player he worked so hard with to earn an Australian spot. Phil Jaques, who will open with Matthew Hayden on Thursday, has been closely monitored by Bayliss since he was in the New South Wales Under-19 squad and the pair was operating together in the state's senior team as recently as March.
Sri Lanka enlisted Bayliss as Tom Moody's replacement three months later and his jump into the international arena was made more interesting by his intimate knowledge of Australia's Sydney-based contingent of Jaques, Stuart Clark, Michael Clarke, Brett Lee and Stuart MacGill. Jaques has been a stop-gap measure in two Tests but he has a chance for an extended run after being promoted into Justin Langer's old position. Bayliss is trying to make him fail.
Jaques, 28, has been a strong performer at state and county level, where he has picked up more than 10,000 first-class runs, but his performances under Bayliss at New South Wales have been responsible for the elevation. Both men were cautious about what tactics would be employed during the two-match series.
"It's going to be interesting," Jaques said. "I've had a lot to do with Trevor over the last few years. I'm sure he'll have a few plans and I'm sure I'll know those plans. I guess it's just a matter of who is better on the day."
He smirked when he refused to divulge his weaknesses and Bayliss expected Jaques to smile when he sees Mahela Jayawardene's fields. "But he faces those types of settings and bowling week in, week out," Bayliss said. "He's also played a lot of Sri Lankan guys in county cricket and they're aware of how he plays." Muttiah Muralitharan has bowled to Jaques twice in England and Chaminda Vaas, who should take the new ball, has been another opponent.
Bayliss started his hands-on role with Sri Lanka three months ago, but he is struggling to move away from his allegiance to the state he played with in 58 first-class matches before progressing to coaching. "Hopefully the New South Wales boys do well," he said, "and the Sri Lankan boys win the Test."
Jaques is being helped by his new team-mates against his old ally. He has received a lot of support in the lead-up to the game and on Monday a call came from Langer telling him to enjoy the experience. Hayden, Langer's former partner, has assisted the settling-in process by staying close to Jaques and chatting with him about Sri Lanka's bowlers. "I can't wait to bat with him," Jaques said, "and I hope we can develop into something special as a partnership."
Australia's training over the past two days has had a new feel with Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Langer missing and the fresher faces of Jaques and Mitchell Johnson joining the regime. In his previous appearances in the squad Jaques has been the temp, but with the prospect of a long stay he is already looking to enhance the team's reputation.
"There's definitely an added excitement in the camp and I'm looking forward to playing with the new guys," he said. "Hopefully there'll be a new-found energy and hopefully we can go even higher." Bayliss has similar goals for his new outfit.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo