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Hayden - I'm still enjoying it

Opener relishing the challenge to rediscover form

Hayden: Great challenge

Matthew Hayden has insisted he is enjoying his cricket, despite a year of less-than-spectacular performances opening the batting for Australia.

The 37-year-old left-hander has an average of less than 24 in his past seven Tests and is without a century since January.

Hayden insisted he was not thinking about retirement and stressed that his thoughts were focused firmly on Australia's next two Test matches against South Africa.

The first starts on Boxing Day and takes place at the MCG - a ground where Hayden has scored six centuries from his past seven Tests.

Nevertheless, with Australia looking to come back from their loss to the Proteas in Perth, Hayden admitted that his loss of form was a genuine cause for concern.

Of his future at international level, Hayden said: "If I'm putting up performances it's just a matter of how long I want to play.

"It's still all about performance. To my mind, as I said at the start, my expectation is that I'm performing every Test match.

"And if that's not the case then I'm vulnerable like everyone else."

Hayden said he would consider retirement if he was also struggling in the nets - but said that was far from the case.

"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," he said.

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

"But that's professional sport and that's the sword we dive onto. It's the great challenge that I really enjoy.

"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."

Challenge

Hayden added that, far from feeling threatened by speculation surrounding his Test future, fighting to rectify the situation was something that he relished.

"You feel slightly uncomfortable, slightly uneasy about it 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," he said.

"I think my expectations have been a good measure and held me in good stead for a 20-year career. My expectations are to perform all the time.

"But you all know you're up and down in the cycle of life and up and down in the cycle of professional sport."