Matthew Hayden may have been labouring this year but replacing him is still not the easiest job. The Australian selectors have lucked out though, there are a multitude of top-order batsmen killing it this Australian season. Three of the top five run scorers in the Sheffield shield competition are openers and that is not even mentioning the one-day opener or last year’s Test opener.

Shaun Marsh, 25, one-day average 54. First-class average 34 with four tons.
The pedigree is there, his father Geoff opened for Australia the last time Australia was rebuilding. Has an ordinary first-class record, but anyone who saw him in the IPL or opening in the ODIs (four 50s in last five games) will know he is the real deal. The only question is can his white ball form transfer over to Test cricket. He’s overcome the lazy tag, and some trouble with booze, but his stock has fallen after a fairly barren first-class season. Sentimental outsider.

Phil Jacques, 29, Test average 47 with three tons, first-class average 54 with 11,605 runs.
Averages 47 in Test cricket, made a hundred in his last Test but was left out for Katich in India and has been injured since. Jacques polarises fans with his machete like forceful shots and lack of footwork. Should be the automatic choice based on his form last year but with so many others making runs while he has been out and his injury (mystery illness or back injury) looks like he might miss out again. Favourite if fit but that looks doubtful.

Chris Rogers, 31, first-class average 49 with 10,870 runs.
Was Hayden’s replacement in Perth 2008 even though his form had been ordinary leading up to it. His form continued to drop so much he missed out on a Australian contract a couple of months later. Decided to leave the grey clouds of Western Australia for the sunny beaches of Victoria, and this year has been as good as any in his career. 661 runs at 82 in six matches. He also slaughtered in county cricket this year. His record is almost the same as Jacques, except with the Test runs. The smart money if Jacques is unwell.

Michael Klinger, 28, 2,475 first-class runs at 36 with six tons.
Was first mentioned as a future Australian player when he was 15 but in over 30 first-class matches with Victoria during a nine-year career he was a disaster. This year he went to South Australia and to say he has prospered is an understatement. In six matches he has 906 runs at 90. Younis Khan thinks he is Test standard and even though he bats at No.3, he has the perfect technique and temperament to open. Coming from a long way back, but coming fast.

Phillip Hughes, 20, 1,337 first class runs at 53 with four tons.
He may be 20 but he looks a Test batsmen now. Made runs against Victoria, best attack in Shield cricket, every time he played them last season, and super cool doing so. Already played ‘A’ cricket for Australia, and had selectors have mentioned him more than once. Durham has already looked into signing him – to be that young and have the County Champion want you is something special. Could be in the race at the right time.

The selectors really need to decide what direction they want to go. One of two near 30 year olds with 10,000 runs behind them. Son of a gun 25-year-old dominating ODIs. The 28-year-old late blooming teen superstar in scary form. Or the 20-year-old that has impressed everyone who has been lucky enough to see him.

Twenty years ago Hughes would have been won easily but these days Australia does like an experienced 30 year old. Surely the time for picking 30 year olds finished right after the Boxing Day Test?