The old hand versus the young challenger.
The past versus the future. The settled versus the ambitious. It may sound like
the build-up to a heavyweight title fight, but it’s actually a description of
the battle underway for a position at the top of the Australian batting order.
Langer versus Jaques. Nuggety left hander versus, well, a slightly less
nuggety left hander.

While that all sounds very exciting, you
could be forgiven for being unaware of the international cricket tournament
currently being played in Australia. The Top End Series,
which has received almost no news coverage, pits the world’s A teams against
one another. That’s right, the second best players from Pakistan, India, New
Zealand and England are all here, and thus far, the tournament has been a
run-feast for Phil Jaques.

In the opening innings of Australia A’s
match against India A, Jaques contributed 240 to Australia’s first innings total
of 4-461 (dec). It prompted headlines like “Jaques makes his case with double
ton” in The SMH,
and “Jaques puts Langer on notice” on Foxsports.
Just to make sure selectors noticed, Jaques knocked together another 117 in the
second innings.

It appears Langer noticed, posting a
record-breaking 342 run reply. Langer’s innings surpassed Viv Richards’ 322 as
the highest score by a Somerset batsman, smashed the highest ever score at
Guildford (228 by Darren Bicknell in 1995), is the tenth highest score in all
first-class cricket in England, and was only four runs short of the highest
ever score by an Australian batsmen in England – Charlie McCartney’s 345 for Australia
against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 1921.

The selectors’ reaction? “Obviously there are a lot of players, Phil Jaques
is one, who are putting a lot of pressure on but the reality is that they are
trying to break into what has been a great Australian cricket side for a long
time,” chairman of selectors Andrew Hildtich told The Australian.

In other words Phil, “Thank you for you
application but we regret to inform you …”

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey