MELBOURNE // The out-of-form opener Matthew Hayden has hinted he may assess his future after the series with South Africa but stressed that he was "not anywhere near" retirement and any decision on his future would be based on his performances. The left-hander, 37, who has an average of less than 24 in his past seven Tests and is without a century since January, acknowledged he needed to make runs in Melbourne and Sydney or he could be involuntarily retired by selectors.
"If I'm putting up performances it's just a matter of how long I want to play," said Hayden ahead of the Boxing Day Test with the Proteas at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where he has posted six centuries from his past seven Tests there. Hayden stressed he was still enjoying his cricket and is fully focused on the remainder of the series, with Australia seeking to overturn a 1-0 deficit after South Africa's victory in Perth.
He has not thought about the 2009 tours to South Africa and England, but expects to perform at the MCG. "I'm not looking ahead to South Africa or England at this stage. I'm just looking ahead to the next two Test matches, the two most exciting Test matches of the summer. I'm still enjoying it. I still feel like I'm hitting the ball well - a touch of luck would be nice. "The day that comes when I can come sit here and face you guys and say I don't want to play cricket anymore for Australia, if that's a forced decision then that's a forced decision."
Meanwhile, the South African skipper Graeme Smith has urged his side to keep up the pressure on Australia's batting line-up for the tomorrow's game. Smith has told his bowlers to finish off the Australia tail quickly after twice facing lower-order revivals from the hosts in the first Test in Perth. "We have gained confidence from having the Australian top order in trouble a lot of the time, but we need to be a little bit more ruthless," said Smith, whose side are seeking to inflict a home series loss on Australia for the first time in almost 16 years.
* PA Sport