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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Jaques worth fighting for
By Dan Roan

When Northants signed Australian Phil Jaques back in April, the reaction of most of the Wantage Road faithful was "Phil who?"

Phil Jaques
Jaques had played two first-class matches before joining Northants
This was a player who had not played a single fixture for his state side New South Wales last season, but was spotted in Sydney club cricket.

These days, though, he needs no introduction.

And his impact has been such that Northants are prepared to mount a legal challenge to keep him at Wantage Road next season.

The left-handed batsman has proven his worth with a string of fine performances, amassing more than 1,400 first-class runs at an average of just under 60, and hitting five centuries.

He has also contributed to Northants' National League campaign, helping them gain promotion with 837 runs at 41.85.

For most young batsmen, this kind of success in their debut county season would be beyond their wildest dreams.

But not for Jaques; as far as he is concerned, things have simply gone to plan.

"It's been OK I guess", says the 24 year-old, modestly.

"When I arrived, [Northants coach] Kepler Wessels said that 1000 championship runs would be a decent year, but that I should really be aiming for around 1400, and that's what I've achieved.

"I'm just pleased to have proved what I can do, and to have repaid some of the faith that Northants showed in me.

Phil Jaques
Both I and Northants are taking legal advice to see what the options are, and I think we have a good case
Phil Jaques
Northants have rewarded Jaques with a new three-year contract, but England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) rules could scupper the deal.

Born and raised in Australia, Jaques holds a British passport as his parents are both English, so he is deemed a non-overseas player.

But his success means that he is certain to play for New South Wales this winter, and once he does, he will become, in the eyes of the ECB, an overseas cricketer.

And with Northants having already signed South Africans Andre Nel and Martin van Jaarsveld as their overseas players for next season, Jaques could find himself out in the cold.

"The contract Northants have offered is subject to me being a domestic player", says Jaques.

"So if the rules remain the same and then I get a first-class fixture for my state, I won't be able to come back."

But Northants are so desperate to keep their man, they are preparing a legal challenge that will argue the qualification rules contravene EU employment law.

PASSPORT PROFESSIONALS
High profile domestic players not qualified for England
Derbyshire: Chris Bassano (Aus), Andrew Gait (SA)
Essex: Andy Flower (Zim; from 2004)
Gloucs: Craig Spearman (NZ)
Hampshire: Nic Pothas (SA)
Middlesex: Sven Koenig (SA)
Northants: Phil Jaques (Aus), Gerard Brophy (SA)
Notts: Kevin Pietersen (SA), Greg Smith (SA)
Somerset: James Bryant (SA)
Sussex: Mark Davis (SA)
Warks: Neil Carter (SA), Jonathan Trott (SA)
Worcs: Mark Harrity (Aus), Matt Mason (Aus)
"Both I and Northants are taking legal advice to see what the options are, and I think we have a good case," says Jaques.

"We see the current rules as they stand as a restriction of trade.

"It's not ideal, and there have been a few other counties show interest in me as a domestic player, but I want to return here."

Wherever Jaques plies his trade next summer, he must soon decide where his international ambitions lie: his native Australia, or England, for whom he qualifies to play in just three years.

"My heart says Australia, but I haven't ruled out playing for England," he says.

"I want to give myself every chance of playing for Australia first.

"There are so many good players out there; it's a tough place to ply your trade, but if you score enough runs they'll have to pick you."

It is a measure of the difference in quality between the two countries' domestic competitions that a man who would walk into the England team struggles to be picked for his state side.

But rival candidates are of the highest calibre in the Waugh brothers, Michael Bevan, Simon Katich, Michael Clarke and Michael Slater.

And if he can find a regular place in that line-up, few would bet against him achieving his ambitions and lining up for the Aussies in the not too-distant future.




NORTHAMPTONSHIRE


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