23 Dec 2008

Jaques bats freely for first time in 18 months

6:00 am on 23 December 2008

For more than a year and half the Australian opening batsman Phil Jaques hadn't played a cover drive without feeling pain.

That was until he picked up his bat for the first time in two months on Monday and spent 15 minutes in the Sydney Cricket Ground nets.

The left-hander was forced prematurely home from Australia's Test series in India to undergo back surgery on a bulging disc.

After months of gruelling rehabilitation, Jaques says he's feeling fantastic and hopes to be back the middle for New South Wales in a one-dayer against Victoria on January 17.

After the Australian selectors' decision to essentially stick by Matthew Hayden for at least the next two Test matches, Jaques will be focusing on making selection for Australia's Test tour of South Africa in mid-February.