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October 3, 2008
Simon Katich is set to take Phil Jaques' place in Australia's line-up for the first Test against India after the coach Tim Nielsen confirmed the pair had been in a "bat-off" in the West Indies this year. Katich is likely to open with Matthew Hayden when the Test series kicks off in Bangalore next Thursday having been won a spot in the final tour match ahead of Jaques.
It would be a tough call on Jaques, who fought off Chris Rogers to be the preferred replacement for the retired Justin Langer last year and has averaged 50.37 in his nine Tests since then. However, Katich grasped his opportunities even more firmly when he stepped in for the injured Hayden in the Caribbean and averaged 63.80 including two centuries.
"Mainly the selectors thought that Katto and Jaquesy pretty much had a bat-off in the West Indies," Nielsen said after the first day of the tour match. "We didn't picture it that way at the time, but they thought Katto was playing extremely well.
"He made hundreds in Antigua and Barbados, the last couple of Tests of the series, he's come off a stellar summer in Australia and is in such good form that they just thought he may have edged himself in front of Jaquesy as the second choice opening batsman behind Matthew. It's a nice position to be in when you've got three quality opening batsmen, unfortunately three doesn't go into two, so the choice they made was to go with Simon this time."
Jaques did not disgrace himself in the West Indies, where he finished off with 108 in his final innings, but Katich's versatility went in his favour. Katich is a usually sharp fielder, although he had a horror spell of dropped catches in the West Indies, and his left-arm wrist-spin could be particularly useful as Australia field an attack lacking spin experience.
"It's just the whole package," Nielsen said. "Katto can bowl spinners if we need him to. He didn't bowl today. He's a good fielder and player. I'm not saying Jaquesy doesn't do those things, but just at the moment the feeling is that Simon is maybe playing a bit better."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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