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Page last updated at 11:56 GMT, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Hayden ready to fight for place

Matthew Hayden in action
Hayden has scored six centuries in his last seven Test matches in Melbourne

Veteran Australia opener Matthew Hayden insists he is not ready to retire, despite his recent lack of form.

The 37-year-old averages 23.50 in his last seven Tests having not scored a century since January and could be dropped if his poor run continues.

But Hayden said he will assess his future after Australia's three-Test series against South Africa.

"I really want to play good Test match cricket for this next series and then see where we are at," said Hayden.

"You feel slightly uncomfortable, slightly uneasy about it (being dropped) but that's part of the great challenge of playing for your country and exactly why I want to play Test match cricket for Australia."

Hayden has an impressive Test average of 51.34 and has been a cornerstone of Australia's all-conquering side since making his debut in 1994, but the left-hander's form has dipped alarmingly in the past 12 months.

Scores of four and 12 in the first Test defeat by South Africa in Perth have seen his place at the top of the batting order come under scrutiny from Australia's unforgiving cricket press.

But Hayden insists he still has hunger and ability to add to his impressive tally of 30 Test centuries, especially with the 2009 Ashes series on the horizon.

"My expectation is that I'm performing every Test match and if that's not the case then I'm vulnerable like everyone else," said Hayden, who has played 101 Tests.

"I'm still enjoying it. I still feel like I'm hitting the ball well - a touch of luck would be nice.

"If I was out in the middle thinking 'gee, I'm really struggling with the bat and really not hitting the ball well, I'm not enjoying it'... I'm not anywhere near that right now."

Chief selector Andrew Hilditch admitted Hayden will need to step up his performances, along with a host of other senior players, if Australia are to draw level with a buoyant South Africa in Melbourne.

"All the indications from Matthew is it's just some time in the middle and the Boxing Day Test seems a pretty good time to do it," he said.

But if the selectors do lose patience with Hayden, the likes of Phil Jacques or Shaun Marsh are likely to be in the frame to replace him.

Nevertheless, Hayden can draw confidence from his previous nine matches at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the venue for the second Test against the buoyant Proteas.

The Queenslander averages 76.57 at the MCG, registering six centuries in his last seven Tests at the ground.

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Aussie coach Nielsen extends stay
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Nielsen named new Australia coach
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