The search for Hayden's replacement January 15, 2009

Katich lets Jaques and Hughes open for NSW

Cricinfo staff

Phil Jaques, who is recovering from back surgery, will open with Phillip Hughes in the Sheffield Shield game starting on January 30 © AFP

Simon Katich, the Australia opener, will drop down the order for New South Wales to allow Phil Jaques and Phillip Hughes to have the best chance of enhancing their claims to partner him in the Test side. Hughes, Jaques and Victoria's Chris Rogers are the leading contenders to replace Matthew Hayden, who retired on Tuesday, and each batsman will have one Sheffield Shield game to impress ahead of the announcement of the squad for South Africa.

New South Wales play Tasmania in Newcastle on January 30 while Victoria host South Australia in Melbourne. "Just having looked at it, I realise that scenario will present itself and I would be happy to do that," the captain Katich told the Sydney Morning Herald about allowing Hughes and Jaques to open. "Hughesy has been great there for us all season, and that's obviously where Jaquesy bats. Hopefully, both guys can score some big runs and help us climb the Sheffield Shield ladder.

"It's pretty simple [as to who should get chosen for South Africa], it's about runs. When you are picking a batsman, it's all about runs and it doesn't matter how you get them."

Katich did not feel his demotion would disrupt his preparation for South Africa, where he will be the senior opener. "It's not like I'm dropping from opener to No.6," he said. "I will still be at the top of the order and see the new ball. The way I view things, that will have the least disruption on the team. Those two obviously open, last year I batted at No. 4 and having batted all around, I am comfortable moving down the order."

Jaques, who scored a century in his last Test for Australia in the West Indies, is due to return from back surgery in a Sydney club game on the weekend. Hughes, who is carrying a leg injury, and Rogers, who played for Australia in Perth last year, have each scored three Sheffield Shield centuries this season.

Mark Waugh has pushed for Hughes to be promoted because he is the youngest at 20. "Jaques hasn't played a lot of Tests and hasn't done anything wrong, but I would be inclined to take the gamble and pick Hughes," Waugh told the Daily Telegraph. "He looks a young tough player who puts a high price on his wicket and can score runs in tough conditions."